Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Interdisciplinarity for the win!

When we were divvying up the duties in our first-year seminar, my team-teaching partner and I decided to subvert expectations: the literature professor would lead discussion in the Natural Sciences part of the curriculum and the physics professor would lead discussion in the Arts and Humanities section, and we would take turns on Social Sciences where we're both out of our elements. We hoped to model methods of engagement with texts outside our fields, which requires us to develop teaching methods to help students engage with texts outside their comfort zones.

Last Thursday my team-teaching partner and I conferred after a difficult class and puzzled over how to get students to open their mouths during class discussions. "Something has to change," he said--and you know what? Something did.

This morning my team-teaching partner brought in a technique he uses all the time in physics classes--clickers. We were discussing a short story I've taught many times before without clickers, but he showed how clickers linked with the right kinds of questions and appropriate follow-up can ease students into pretty interesting discussion of literature. 

And then he had them write a bit, using a technique I'd introduced during the first week of class. And then he did some cold-calling to get students to respond, and when they still had trouble responding, he restated the question in a more compelling way. And then he tied it all up together in a way that felt inspiring.

We think about team-teaching as aimed at improving our students' learning experience, but from where I sit, it's bound to improve our teaching experiences as well. I see my colleague use a technique that has never occurred to me, and when it works, I wonder how I can adapt it; he sees me use an effective technique in class and later adapts it to his own needs. As iron sharpens iron, so one teacher sharpens another--and in the end, we all win.  


penn said...

Yes, I love that! That's the true professional development; to get to observe others teaching, and to work with them, really shows us actual new tricks. I love going to conferences and hearing stuff, but I sometimes struggle to put the ideas into action because I can't visualize them.

I'm lucky this year that a really dynamic new teaching is sharing a prep with me. We have 7 sections -- I teach 1, she's got 4, and another great teacher has 2. She teaches in my room for one of the sections, sandwiched by two classes I teach, so I get to see her in action often. I learn so much from the different ways she engages her students. I was so impressed with her job talk (we do them with students and get observed at my school) that I really pushed for her hiring, and I am not disappointed.

Bev said...

This is great! And this is why I've always loved the opportunities I've had to serve on our tenure and promotion committee, because not only do we get to observe great teaching all over campus, we also get to reward people for it.