Professional Development: How Do You Know You Are a Good Teacher?

We started off this morning with a great presentation by Robin Ozz, Jason Evans, and Rosemary Arca. They presented on their participation in a two year long professional development program focused on basic writing pedagogy. Full disclosure: they were presenting on a project I which I was also a participant and it was one of the best things I’ve done since graduate school (just wanted to fully reveal my bias).

They explained the Global Skills for College Completion project. It’s an on-line project that brings basic skills faculty from around the country together to examine pedagogical practices with the aim of teaching better.

So, here’s the elephant in the room: what do you spend most of your professional day doing? If, like me, you teach basic skills at a two-year or four-year college, you probably spend most of your time on teaching or teaching-related activities. Now, how much training did you receive in graduate school to do that? I don’t mean here being thrust into teaching as a TA–although an apprenticeship model is certainly important and instructive–but really studying pedagogy and effective teaching. Few graduate programs have an emphasis on producing effective college-level teachers. As Jason Evans said, we all have our home grown pedagogues that we’ve developed based on trial and error. What the project allowed us to do was develop a shared, common vocabulary about our best practices.

Enter GSCC. The project took faculty from around the country and brought them together to think about their teaching. What resulted was a two-year, intensive experience of examining our teaching in many different ways.

Rosemary Arca began by explaining the project and the tools we used. This project was primarily on-line. She provided an overview of the on-line forums, the ePortfolios, the reflective practices, and the large and small group work and explained how the group was able to work virtually.

A participant in the audience raised the issue of the on-going nature of the project of how doing professional development more than once (a one time event) allows people to raise questions, interact, and really learn (just as we ask students to do in our own classes).

Jason Evans provided a thoughtful overview of coaching and it’s role in the project, Through on-line forums, analysis of videos, and weekly entries in ePortfolios, project participants provided feedback and coaching to one another to help improve teaching in targeted areas. Part of the project revolved around the development of themes in teaching like the role of affective issues in teaching or group activities or organization in instruction. Participants then examined one another’s work for effectiveness in addressing these themes. Rather than receiving a list of “best practices,” these themes developed from the group over time as a practice of inquiry and critique.

Evans, Ozz, and Arca discussed how they analyzed their practices using the themes and regular data reports provided by a group of outside researchers (participants in the project were studied by the Stanford Research Institute–SRI). They showed the audience examples of analyses that were conducted on their teaching by SRI. They discussed the importance of developing greater awareness in their teaching and developing a sense of who they were in the classroom.

The group also discussed the importance of investing in faculty development for all faculty, both full-time and contingent faculty.

Robin Ozz rounded out the presentation by showing her ePortfolio and explaining how we documented our teaching in the project. Each week, faculty documented a lesson by providing a narrative description of the lesson, objectives for the lesson, examples of student work from the lesson, and an analysis of the student work and what it demonstrates about the lesson objectives.

ePortfolios also included mid- and end-of-term reflections and videos 3 times a semester. All of these artifacts were digitally available to the community through ePortfolios.

You can read more about the project here: GSCC
GSCC is also recruiting a second cohort of faculty for the project. You can apply on-line at GSCC.

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Filed under CBW 2012, Professional Developmwnt

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