Greener Teaching Techniques

Happy Earth Day!

Greener living has increasingly become a central issue in American life. In our personal lives, we recycle, use reusable bags at the grocery store, and light our homes with CFL bulbs. However, what can we do to make our teaching practices environmentally friendly? There are many simple changes faculty and instructors can make to decrease the impact their classroom has on the environment.

For example, use less paper by posting class documents online (in Blackboard, for those at NIU). Accept assignment submissions electronically rather than  on paper, and return grades and feedback the same way. Even something as simple as turning off classroom lights can save electricity and help make teaching more environmentally friendly.

For even more techniques, go to the new Greener Teaching Techniques resource page compiled by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center:  http://www.facdev.niu.edu/facdev/resources/greenerteaching/index.shtml.

If you have any additional suggestions, post them in the comments or send them to facdev@niu.edu!

Microteaching

What is microteaching?

Microteaching

Why wait for student evaluations to receive feedback on teaching practices? Microteaching provides an opportunity for faculty and teaching assistants to improve their teaching practices through a “teach, critique, re-teach” model. Microteaching is valuable for both new and experienced faculty to hone their teaching practices. It is often used in pre-service teacher training programs to provide additional experience before or during the clinical experiences.

Microteaching is a concentrated, focused form of peer feedback and discussion that can improve teaching strategies. It was developed in the early and mid 1960’s by Dwight Allen and his colleagues at the Stanford Teacher Education Program (Politzer, 1969). The microteaching program was designed to prepare the students for their internships in the fall. In this early version of microteaching, pre-service teachers at Stanford taught part-time to a small group of pupils (usually 4 to 5). The pupils were high school students who were paid volunteers and represented a cross-section of the types of students the pre-service teachers would be faced with during their internships.

Why use microteaching?

Microteaching has several benefits. Because the lessons are so short (usually 5 to 10 minutes), they have to focus on specific strategies. This means that someone participating in a microteaching session can get feedback on specific techniques he or she is interested in exploring. In a pre-service or training situation, participants can practice a newly learned technique in isolation rather than working that technique into an entire lesson (Vare, 1993).

Microteaching is also an opportunity to experiment with new teaching techniques. Rather than trying something new with a real class, microteaching can be a laboratory to experiment and receive feedback, first (Kuhn, 1968).

How does micro-teaching work?

In the classic Stanford model, each participant teaches a short lesson, generally 5 to 10 minutes, to a small group. The “students” may be actual students like in the original Stanford program or they may be peers playing the role of students. In the case of pre-service teachers and teaching assistants, there generally is at least one “expert”, as well. If desired, the session can be videotaped for review at a later date (Vare, 1993).

The presentation is followed by a feedback session. In some cases, the feedback session can be followed by a re-teach, so that the faculty has an opportunity to practice the improvements suggested during feedback (Vare, 1993).

Giving Feedback

Receiving criticism is difficult for everyone. Setting a tone of respect and professionalism may help participants to be tactful and to keep feedback constructive. Here is an example of ground rules used by the CASTL program at California State University (http://fdc.fullerton.edu/learning/CASTL/carnegie_microteaching_materials.htm):

Ground Rules

  1. Respect confidentiality concerning what we learn about each other.
  2. Respect agreed-upon time limits.  This may be hard, but please understand that it is necessary.
  3. Maintain collegiality.  We’re all in this together.
  4. Stay psychologically and physically present and on task.
  5. Respect others’ attempts to experiment and to take risks.
  6. Listen and speak in turn, so everyone can hear all comments.
  7. Enjoy and learn from the process!

Feedback should be constructive and based on observation, rather than judgments. A good example of feedback is “You fidget with your pen while talking, and that is distracting,” rather than “You seem nervous and unprepared.” The first comment is about observable behavior, while the second is a judgment about what that behavior means.

Commenting on observable behavior also leads to suggestions for improvement. Again, using our pen example, a better example of feedback would be “You fidget with your pen while talking. Perhaps it would be better to keep a hand in your pocket.”

In the Stanford model, feedback was given using a 2+2 system. Each participant started his/her feedback with two positive comments, followed by two suggestions for improvement. This gives the faculty a sense of his or her strengths as well as areas of improvement.

How can microteaching be used?

The most common application for microteaching is in pre-service teacher training, like the original Stanford model. However, that certainly isn’t the only application. Microteaching has also been used to train teaching assistants and new faculty on teaching methods. Even experienced faculty members can refine their teaching techniques using microteaching.

A similar technique, microrehearsal, has been used to train prospective music conductors (Kuhn, 1968). Like microteaching, the students conduct a 5 to 10 minute rehearsal with sample musicians. Following the rehearsal, the musicians provide feedback on the prospective conductor’s rehearsal technique.

Microteaching techniques can also be used in other fields. In business, microteaching can be used to focus on presentation skills, persuasion and negotiation techniques, and interviewing techniques. In counseling and social work, microteaching can be used to hone questioning skills as well as active listening skills. It also applies outside of the classroom. For example, departments like Career Service can use microteaching techniques to prepare students for job interviews.

Ultimately, microteaching is a useful technique for teaching soft skills, presentation skills, and interpersonal skills. This focused approach encourages growth through practice and critique. The “teach, critique, re-teach” model gives the faculty immediate feedback and increases retention by providing an opportunity for practice.

References

Kuhn, W. (1968). Holding a Monitor up to Life: Microteaching. Music Educators Journal, 55(4), 49-53.

Politzer, R. (1969). Microteaching: A New Approach to Teacher Training and Research. Hispania, 52(2), 244-248.

Vare, J. W. (1993). Co-Constructing the Zone: A Neo-Vygotskian View of Microteaching. Retrieved January 23, 2009, from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED360285.

http://www.ln.edu.hk/tlc/learning_matters/01-99-0399.pdf

http://fdc.fullerton.edu/learning/CASTL/carnegie_microteaching_materials.htm

Quick Tip: Wimba Classroom in Under 5 Minutes

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Stephanie Richter, M.S. Ed, Instructional Technologies Coordinator of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, provides an introduction to Wimba Classroom, including what it is, how the interface works, and how to use it in the classroom. Links to additional full-featured presentation formats, including text transcript, are available here.

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