Teaching Peer Reviews

This last week I had my second set of Peer Review for my third year appointment process. I’ve thought about the review process and then read one set of the reviews and have come to a few thoughts about my teaching.

The first thing that I’m thinking about is how important it is to come into the classroom feeling comfortable with your abilities and the material that you’re going to teach. I know that I’ve taught courses that were outside of my major areas of training and the classes have gone well. Likewise, I’ve taught courses in my major area and for whatever reason that particular course was mediocre at times. Many things can make a class successful or weak, however, in my experience the instructor’s attitude is extremely important to the class environment.

The second thing that I’m struck with is my readiness with examples for the students. I find that some days I won’t refer to the extra examples that I have up my sleeve for discussion and other times we’ll review all of them. I’ve taught the same class back to back, but different sections (or groups of students) and the classes are markedly different based on the students. A mentor once told me that she used to come to class with a planned joke. I never tried that—I find that if I have a joke to say it will come to me and there are times when the unplanned joke bombs. This is OK. They usually still laugh, but it’s a kind laugh at me and not the joke. I use American pronunciation for words and at times the Canadian students have laughed or asked for me to repeat a word—this is fine. I’ve never taken offense.

The third thing that might sound arbitrary in some ways, but many students today really expect most instructors to use some sort of technology. When you don’t use any technology or slides, it can come off as endearing or that you are out of touch with their learning needs. Now, whether or not you make the slides, outlines or technology available to them is another conversation! I have mixed feelings about this and will save my comments about this for a different blog post.

In my conversation with students, I have also found that they are not at ease with the instructor who only relies on notes and doesn’t walk around the room some. As a matter of fact, I noticed in my Peer Review that my apparent lack of use of notes was noted. Well, I did have a skeleton outline, but I didn’t really refer to it. I like to walk around the classroom and have heard this “tactic” keeps students awake (!) or focused. I get excited about the material at times and I just need to walk and talk.

As I’ve noted previously on this blog, I also learn from each class and look forward to my continued ruminations about my teaching. My teaching is a work in progress and I’m the first one to admit this.