Teaching and Learning: Flipping the Script
Inclusion, Engagement, Humanity, Training & Development
The goal of this activity is to help university faculty consider learning problems students may have in their classes that they may not currently be aware of. After completing and reflecting upon this activity, faculty could apply this new insight into adapting their teaching, assessment, or feedback practices to address these newly discovered concerns. If necessary, they would have a better idea of what type of professional development they may need in order to help improve and adapt their teaching practices. This activity relies upon faculty participating in four exercises: 1) Perspective Taking, where faculty consider a situation in which they learned effectively and what that looked/felt like, followed by considering a learning situation that was difficult for them and how those experiences differed; 2) Ego Transcendence, in which faculty define how they developed their teaching practices and what feedback they have received on their teaching; 3) Reflection-in-action, in which they examine their implicit reactions to situations with students both in and out of the classroom and take note of those reactions; and 4) Real-Time Value-Behavior Alignment; where faculty examine their teaching philosophy statements and documented learning objectives (espoused theories) to see if their teaching practices (theories-in-use) match.
Erica C. Fleming
The Pennsylvania State University
April 1, 2022 at 12:09:08 AM
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The facilitator will ask faculty participants to create two columns on a piece of paper. In the first column, they will be encouraged to consider the learning experience (can be more than one) that made them want to become an expert in their disciplinary field. They will answer three questions (can be as notes, disjointed thoughts, or full sentences – however they prefer):
1. What specific aspects of the learning experience were impactful? Was it a lecture? Discussion? Activity/engagement you participated in? Why was that particular aspect so impactful to you?
2. How did being in that learning environment (classroom, workshop, etc.) make you feel? Be specific – what emotions are evoked when you think about your early learning in your discipline?
3. What did the faculty member do to make you feel that way?
After they have answered these questions and shared with a partner, they will be asked to consider a learning environment where they struggled to learn a concept or skill. This doesn’t have to be academic; it can be any formal or informal learning situation. In the second column, they will answer these three questions:
1. What specific aspects of the learning experience were difficult for you? Was it a lecture? Discussion? Activity/engagement you participated in? Why was that particular aspect so difficult for you?
2. How did being in that learning environment (classroom, workshop, etc.) make you feel? Be specific – what emotions are evoked when you think about this difficult learning experience?
3. Why do you think this particular topic/skill was so difficult for you to learn?
Faculty will share these insights either with the group or with a partner, depending on timing.
The facilitator will ask faculty to consider their own teaching practices, and think about (or, if comfortable, share with a partner or the group) how they developed their teaching style. If needed, the facilitator could prompt them with these questions:
1. Do you teach the way you were taught? What aspects of your teaching come directly from the way your faculty mentors taught you?
2. What aspects (if any) of your own teaching practices have you changed to be different than the ways you were taught and why? If you have never changed your practices, what about them do you like?
On their own (without sharing), faculty will be asked what constructive feedback they have been given on their teaching practices (from students personally, in student reviews, or from peer observations). They will then be asked to look back and reconsider how their early experiences in their field (from the previous part of the exercise) made them feel. Finally, they will be asked: When you are given constructive feedback on your teaching, how does that make you feel? What immediate (instinctual) reaction does it prompt?
Faculty will share a story of one student that struggled with the content in their course and never moved past that struggle (ultimately received a poor grade). They will describe what elements of the course or content were difficult for the student, and how they reacted to that student’s struggles in the moment. They will then be asked to look back and reconsider how their own negative learning experiences (from the first part of the activity) made them feel. Finally, they will be asked: Considering that the student might feel similar to the way you did in your negative learning experience, can you imagine any different way to respond to their struggles?
Finally, faculty will be asked to look at their own teaching philosophy statements (they had to write one at least when they applied to their positions, or may have one that is more updated) and the overall learning objectives for their course. They will then compare those explicit, written beliefs about teaching and what students should be able to learn to their own teaching practices. They should avoid making judgments here; they should only make a list of the values and objectives and try to match their teaching practices to the elements of the philosophy statement and learning objectives. In places where no connection exists, simply make a note of it.
How you can improve this solution
It would be beneficial for participants to "lean in" a bit more to the emotions that these exercises bring up. They could be asked to sit with their emotions (particularly the negative ones) for longer while being reminded that it is helpful to really feel these feelings. Additionally, some faculty may benefit from a "cheat sheet" of words to describe both the positive and negative emotions, to help prompt their own reflection.
The expanding phase was the most difficult; it is difficult to challenge faculty egos without completely turning them off to the process. Some additional thought could be put into how to restructure that phase.
Some other suggestions from participants included:
1. Encouraging faculty to write a letter about their experience to a trusted friend or colleague
2. Participants co-creating a word cloud of both positive and negative emotional language
3. Have participants record themselves telling their learning experiences, then watch the recording while imagining they are a child version of themselves