Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Experienced Faculty = Font of practical knowledge and hard truths.

I recently had an observation by an experienced faculty member and they gave me some great advice that I thought I would pass along.

  • Trying to use random whiteboard markers that don't work looks bad. Every college classroom has an assortment of whiteboard markers in the tray that people have left. Some work, and some don't. When an instructor tries to make a point, but their marker doesn't work it brings up thoughts of the absent-minded professor who isn't prepared for their class. While this is a minor issue it is one that helps set the tone of the class. Solution? Bring your own supply of whiteboard markers, with some kind of tape or rubber band to mark them. 
  • Every instructor apparently has some kind of verbal tick. Some phrase or series of words that they use as a crutch to fill the empty space between actual words. Mine? "Right?" I have heard that I use "Right?" before, but after forty times this faculty member stopped counting. I think I get into a 'flow' and don't really think about my word usage sometimes. Since being told this I am trying to be very conscientious about the words that come out of my mouth, but sometimes I just get back into that flow. The observer did ask "If its not harmful to students, is it really something you need to worry about?" to which my answer is no. At the same time, I don't like the idea that my language is not controllable and that sometimes I just say stuff. 
  • I pack a lot of material into my courses. Some of it could be done by students ahead of time. In this particular lesson I was having students graph rational functions using their calculator. We were then looking at the patterns in the graphs, factors of the numerator and denominator, etc. looking for the specific patterns we discuss with this subject. The observer mentioned that students can do a lot of this work ahead of time. 
What advice have you received from an observation? Did you incorporate feedback into your teaching?

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