I had the privilege of doing a teaching observation of a colleague this semester. I always love the opportunity to learn from other’s approaches to the learning process. I thought I would share some of my reflections and observations hoping it may help you too.
The instructor and I both share an approach to teaching where we attempt to reduce the barriers of authority in the teacher-student relationship. This instructor always greets her students at the start of class with a hearty “Good Evening Scholars!” Her stated reason for doing this is to establish mutual authority in approaching the subject matter and to begin the socialization of the students as scholars. It’s a wonderfully simple way of setting the stage for the classroom and for communicating a co-constructed student-teacher relationship. It’s one that I will likely “borrow” for the future.
This relational sense was furthered by the instructor’s warmth in the classroom. She begins each class session with announcements, sharing items she has discovered, and allowing students to share their own. It’s surprising to me how few instructors take the time to do this at the start of their classes. Of course, each class is somewhat different, but this seems like a very simple way of establishing a tone for the classroom that encourages sharing and the mutual knowledge construction.
The instructor also frequently used humor, shared personal stories and allowed space for students to share their own experiences. It was clear that students felt comfortable interrupting with questions and examples throughout class without hesitation. It was also surprisingly interactive for a class of its size (approximately 30 students). In my own teaching, I find it takes time to establish this type of rapport in the classroom. For the classes I teach, which are typically smaller in size, I attempt to break students from the impulse they have to defer to the instructor and the pressure to always raise their hands to be recognized to speak. It often takes time, but eventually we get there. If anyone has any ideas on how to help speed up this process, I’d be interested to hear your approach.
Lastly, the instructor was clearly knowledgeable of the subject matter. She was able to move off script easily and was not over-reliant on PowerPoint or notes (although she did use both to organize her thoughts). As I am still at the beginning of my teaching journey, I appreciate the time and effort it takes to reach this point. It’s always great to watch a “master.”
Overall, it was a great experience. During my observation, it was clear that students enjoyed the instructor’s teaching style and her as a person. She was able to inspire interest in the subject matter and most all students were continuously engaged in the class and the subject matter. It’s something for which we should all continuously strive.