A couple of things inspired this post…
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how difficult it is for someone outside of the student-teacher relationship to really see the teaching that’s happening.
For example, I have a colleague who observes most of my classes this semester, and with whom I brainstorm what I plan to do for the class, but I also have some privte interactions with students which influence how I behave in class, but these interactions are invisible to her. I was thinking about how peer observations of teaching would not clarify certain things unless it comes up in conversation between the teacher and observer.
I was also thinking about how conducting peer observations of another person, even if you do it multiple times, gives you a window of what that person does in their classroom, but teaching is so much more than that – there’s also how the teacher interacts with students outside the classroom, how they give feedback on assignments and such, how they decide what to do for next class, and so on. I know that a good peer observation would involve pre and post discussion where things like that could potentially come up, but they don’t always… Because they’re a million tiny things and you won’t always realize which of them is relevant when…
And then there was the question someone (Rissa?) asked me on Twitter about a recent blogpost – I wrote about how my students’ narrative game prototypes were breaking my heart…and that maybe that should be a learning goal…and she asked about the process in class to how we got there.. And even though I shared all the text of the assignments we did leading up to it, and that we had brief discussions in class (which I recall vaguely as being good but not overly long) , I can’t honestly put my finger on what led to such great assignments… I am thinking it’s possibly something Intangible and not necessarily tied to that particular class session or such… Also that it might have nothing at all to do with me but more to do with the students themselves. It could relate to an email exchange or some other thing I did like shared something of myself. I literally don’t know. I might actually ask the students tomorrow about this, but I’m not even sure THEY know!
What do you think of this?
I’ve always always always felt a syllabus was a poor representation of how good a teacher/course would be, and obviously a couple of observations of someone’s teaching may or may not indicate something. And looking at a couple of student assignments will never be enough. And then even a teacher’s own reflections will always be limited… Even when it’s ongoing because what you choose to highlight in the moment will differ from what seems important in hindsight and such.
Anyway. Bottom line: I’ll ask my students!