On a sunny Monday, I was observed by Helen. It was pretty standard Monday morning, when half of the class is already dead, and the other half is sleepwalking and wish they died yesterday. Surprisingly, everyone but one student arrived before the session started.
The first thing Helen picked up was the class size. She noted that with only 11 students in the class, it was possible to interact with them on personal basis. Helen commented that I used nice and relaxed approach and that there was good use of space in front of the room. She further said that classroom size was excellent, and that desks were very easy to work from. Students were not assigned places, and they chose to sit at the front of the classroom. Indeed, during this class, as well as any other of my classes, I put special effort and attention to developing trustful and open relations with my students. I want them to view me as a guide and advisor rather than as a distant and unapproachable source of knowledge and information. On the Center for Teaching and Learning website at the University of Georgia it is noted that “… a teacher’s reserve and formality in interpersonal relationships is often perceived [by students] as either an expression of condescension toward them or as a lack of self confidence”. It is further states on that website that: “If your students realize that you are a friendly, understanding person who is aware of their needs and interests, they will feel much more confident in approaching you for clarification of communication problems”. So I try to be such teacher. This point links to A4 descriptor from UKPSF document – “Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance”.
When I give feedback to my learners I try to reinforce their achievements prior to pointing out any areas where they need further improvement. When I comment on students’ weak areas in knowledge I take special care not to give them an impression that they are not capable of doing well in this specific area but rather reinforce it to them that they need to put extra effort into the task to do it better. Indeed, Biggs and Tang (2007: 92) comment and warn that: “…in their informal interactions with students and in their comments on student performances, teachers may convey messages to students that they have little hope of succeeding; for example, by attributing a poor performance to lack of ability rather than to lack of persistence”. This point links to A3 descriptor from UKPSF document – “Assess and give feedback to learners”.
Helen also noted that the voice pace was good and appropriate, and the delivery was balanced. To control the pace of the session, tutor used Q&A mix appropriately. Personally, I take it to be very valuable opinion from someone who works on radio.
As for points to improve, Helen picked up two. First one was related to the classroom layout: from the back row, it was quite difficult to see the bottom part of the interactive board. The second one was related to the students’ confidence. If a quiet student answered my question, the rest of the class could not always hear what he said. This was partly due to the positioning of the desks, and also because not everyone felt confident enough to speak loudly. If a student did not know if the answer was right, he or she tended to reply very quietly. To address the second issue, I plan to use confidence building techniques (Gross Davis, 2009; Harman and Toth, 2006). I would remind students that it is ok to be wrong in the class, as everyone is a learner and is therefore allowed – and is actually expected – to make mistakes. As Tjosvold et. al (2004) state: “mistakes can foster learning”, as students try out their hypotheses as to what is correct and appropriate in the field or topic and what is not. And the more mistakes are solved and addressed during their course, the less mistakes they would do at a workspace – which is much more important.
As for the first issue, there are several possible solutions: ask my manager to find gap in the timetable and swap rooms (estimated time of completion: 2 months), apply for a planning permission to get the room changed (estimated time of completion: 4 years), or ask students to move monitors to the side when not in use (estimated time of broken monitor: very soon).
Helen was also impressed with the real life examples I gave in the class, related to the postcode and National Trust. Having completed a lot of commercial products, I can bring an example to nearly anything. However, I did not expect those examples to be that much illustrative.
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4th January 2013
Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2007) Teaching for Quality Learning at University (3rd edition). Berkshire, England: Open University Press / McGraw-Hill Education.
Center for Teaching and Learning website at the University of Georgia: http://www.ctl.uga.edu
Gross Davis, B. (2009) Tools for Teaching. 2nd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Harman, M. and Toth, M. (2006) Inspiring Active Learning: A Complete Handbook for Today’s Teachers. Alexandria, VA: Association for supervision and curriculum development.
Tjosvold, D., Yu, Z., and Hui, C. (2004) Team Learning from Mistakes: The Contribution of Cooperative Goals and Problem-Solving. Journal of Management Studies, 41,(7), pp. 1223–1245.
The Higher Education Academy, 2012. UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). [online] Available at: <http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ukpsf> [Accessed 17 November 2012].