Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Assessing Your Work Through Students' Comments

Today as I'm home caring for a sick child, I am reading a large number of student responses related to my teaching efforts at the university. It's a humbling affair.

It was my first time in a long time teaching university students. About 20 years ago I taught a similar course at another local university for a few semesters. At that time I was a much younger and busier educator/pareant who didn't even stop to think that I could do it better. Now as a veteran teacher of thirty years I find I am much more cognizant of the growth potential included in any endeavor. I realize now, more than ever, that there's always room for growth and improvement, and that students know a lot when it comes to what works with regard to teaching and learning.

So as I read the students' reflections, I'm reminded of just how much time and preparation it takes to teach a sensitive, student-centered, personalized program. No class of students learns in the same way and all the students bring their own experiences, needs, challenges, and perspectives to class. To teach well is to acknowledge that.

Also to teach well is to know the focus and objectives of the program well. I've been teaching elementary school for a long time. I know a lot about what students want and need at that level. Since this is my first time in a long time teaching university students, I wasn't quite sure about what they knew already and what they needed and wanted to know about teaching math in school. In reality, their needs and wants differed greatly amongst one another as I previously said, and probably, if I were in charge of the world, I would design the course with the following components:
  • Initial teacher-student interview of 30 minutes where the instructor gets to know the teacher candidate with depth related to his/her experience and expectations for the course.
  • Multiple, targeted content/process related lessons where the teacher models best practice and students then discuss and personalize the learning.
  • A tighter connection with the practicum, real world experiences of teacher candidates so that teacher candidates are able to try out what they are learning in the classroom in the practicum and then sharing that experience with others in class.
  • A blended style course of hands-on, technology, workshop, teacher-led, video and more.
In the end, I felt the course went quite well for a first time at this university. I know that I learned a lot and I believe the teacher candidates got a good taste of what's out there with regard to math teaching and learning. Ideally, as stated above, I would enjoy teaching this course in conjunction with the practicum experience. For example, perhaps teacher candidates would be teaching math every day to young children then meeting once or twice a week so that a master teacher could coach, inspire, and inform their efforts. I believe the Boston Fellows program has a model like this. 

There's more to say on this and as I read more comments and assessments, I'm sure I'll return to post again. It's humbling to read assessments about your own efforts, but taking these assessments seriously has the potential to serve your craft and practice well providing you with areas for growth and development. That's exactly what I'll do.