Teaching Portfolio Contents
Faculty Teaching Evaluation & Reflection November 2014
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Excerpt from faculty teaching evaluation conducted by Dr. Joann Keyton:
Overall, Ms. Watterson’s manner of presentation was firm, but friendly. She called on students by name. When moving from descriptive to analytical presentations in discussing an example speech, she skillfully pointed out where the speaker/author was strong and influential in the speech at the same time acknowledging that the use of language in the speech destroyed his credibility…Ms. Watterson is a proficient teacher who used a variety of methods of instruction to keep students’ interest and to reinforce material. During this class session, she used powerpoint, document camera, handout, notecard activities, mini-lectures, and question-answer sessions. Activities varied from more abstract conceptual understanding to specific instances of placing this information into practice in students’ speeches. Each activity served to reinforce the material previously learned and its application to students’ future speeches.
Post evaluation reflection:
I will work in including more explicit transitions between blocks of the class that help to relate previous lectures and activities to the following lectures and activities. I will also more deliberately stimulate participation from students in class who speak up less often by offering more low-level questions and prompting certain groups of students for responses (i.e. “somebody from this side of the class tell me…” or “somebody from that corner tell me…”).
Peer Comment Log & Reflection October 2013
The following comments were collected after I co-taught the weekly meeting of our graduate class, Human Communication Theory. Each student in this masters-level course was required to teach or co-teach one session of the course. My classmate, TJ, and I co-taught a session six weeks into the course about relationship development theories.
As co-teacher, I was responsible for the opening activity and the second half of the lecture. My goal for the opening activity was to have students 1) compare and apply the three theories in the unit and 2) to review and compare theories covered in units 1-5, which had not been covered since the beginning of the course other than in fleeting mentions in discussion.
I asked three of my classmates for feedback. I requested feedback mostly regarding the design and implementation of my introductory activity, called Name That Theory. Peer #1, Peer #2, and Peer #3 (a student who demonstrated confusion during the activity) provided feedback.
The Name that Theory activity began with splitting students into four groups, each of which received a research scenario in which “researcher x” explores a hunch with regard to relationship development. Each group was asked to evaluate and choose one of the three theories from the unit to apply to the research question. Each group was also asked to select one theory from the previous five units that was most relevant to apply. The groups then presented their response and why they chose each theory. After each group presented, I revealed that the research scenario was an actual study which was simplified for the activity. Then I revealed which theory was applied by the researcher in each case. Three of four of the groups correctly applied the theory that was used by the researcher!
After teaching the class I thought the Name that Theory activity had been helpful and engaging for students, though I had a few thoughts as to how I would tweak my delivery. Given feedback from my peers below, I would add one extra step to my delivery of instructions for the activity. I would employ narrative style to run through an example of how to complete the activity by saying, “So, here’s an example of how your group might respond: Having read researcher x’s scenario, we think uncertainty reduction theory from this unit is most relevant to apply because Y, and social exchange theory from units 1-5 is most relevant because Z.”
I also received constructive criticism from my peers with regard to overall lecture delivery and discussion leadership. Two nuggets stood out to me which I will incorporate into my teaching in the future. First is keeping my energy up toward the end of a lecture. Once I have successfully kicked off a teaching experience, my energy lags after the initial adrenaline rush. I will look for ways to keep energy up as the class session comes to a close. Second, I’ll work on leaving more silence after asking questions of the class for students to consider the question and formulate a response.
Peer #1 – Design of the activity was effective. The “researcher x” stuff always gets me confused. I’m not sure if a more personal message is not good pedagogical standards. The overall theory was VERY effective and a good review. Delivery of the activity – You explained the directions very well. You also have great connection with your classmates, so I’m sure getting “control” in the beginning was a little odd. My only suggestion would be to work on how you navigate the friendship-leader thing to make sure you’re heard. Overall leadership of class discussion – Very effective. You asked great follow up questions and praised all of us for relevant comments. Your wrap up was also really strong. My only thought for improvement will be to keep up your energy towards the end. Jump us get us moving, whatever it takes. Overall, you were a rockstar!
Peer #2- I loved the concept of the introductory activity. You seemed to do a great job distilling actual research questions. (I may steal that for my own students! Well…a version of it.) Also, it had the added bonus of helping the class connect to past theories we’ve studied. Sometimes I feel like the class is one long string of unrelated theories, but this helped me apply what I already “knew” to what I was not as familiar with. Getting a student to connect a new concept to an established one is REALLY difficult. Bravo! You had great non-verbals. You smiled, had an open body posture, and nodded encouragingly. Your facilitation was also good. My one note (if it can be called a note) is that while it is difficult, I would recommend waiting a bit longer once a question is posed to the group for a reply. I can usually gauge the comfort level of the discussion leader by how long they wait for everyone to respond to a question. Sometimes people may have a point (and sometimes they don’t) but they may be actually thinking through it. When I’ve asked my own students, they’ve said things like “the time seems to go really fast after a question is asked because I’m thinking so hard,” whereas for me, I’m thinking “Did they not understand? Why is nobody talking? Is it hot in here? Maybe I’ll ask another way. They seem pensive…or are they just playing on their phones?” I try to make non-threatening eye contact during questions. Sometimes the introverted ones will just glance at the leader, waiting to be called on. This gives me time to breathe as I smile and scan the room, and it sometimes identifies those who HAVE ideas while everyone else is contemplating. I know you did not have much time left at the end of the evening to cover your material, but you did well finishing so quickly! It seemed like you were able to cover everything you intended to cover. As a total side note, I thought the PowerPoint presentation was clear and easy to follow. Also, it seemed to meld nicely the times that you were “leading” and the times TJ was “leading.”
Peer #3- I really liked your activity! I can’t really think of anything that needed to be changed. Maybe if you had structured the assignment with less options? Maybe it would have made the assignment more clear. Perhaps, used a map design to explain the activity?
Teaching Self-Evaluation December 2013
Toward the end of the semester in the class for which I was a teaching assistant, I was asked to teach a writing workshop in the professor, Dr. Schrag’s, absence. We decided the purpose was to prepare students for the upcoming assignment to write and format their own resume and cover letter for a job in the field. Additionally, I wanted to share some general academic writing tips.
I started the class with a question about Thanksgiving break to warm up the large lecture hall of about 50 students. I told students I was looking forward to the break, as I know they were, and asked who was traveling for Thanksgiving. I also asked who was traveling the furthest. Starting the class in this manner acknowledged that the context and flow of this class session would be different than that of Dr. Schrag’s lectures. It also acknowledged that students have a different relationship with me as their teaching assistant than with Dr. Schrag, as he doesn’t often pose questions such as these about students’ lives.
I continued this practice of asking questions and waiting for students to respond throughout the class session. As we talked about resume writing, I asked who has had an internship; who is a graduating senior on the job search; based on what we discussed just now, how could this resume be improved, etc. During nearly every example of the writing tips segment, I asked how the sentence could be improved, giving the students the opportunity to edit themselves rather than telling them how to improve. In this way, I feel that I effectively brought active learning into the class session.
I know from my research about improvisation and collaborative discussion in teaching, that the less structured nature of collaborative discussion leaves the teacher more vulnerable to moments of uncertainty, though it allows students to more actively create their own learning experience. In fact, a student did catch me off guard early in the lesson with a question to which I didn’t know the answer. Part of me was annoyed. I’d spent hours preparing this lesson not even five minutes in, this diversion happened. I fumbled through a joke that acknowledged I was a new teacher and that of course a student would ask me a question to which I didn’t know the answer. Then, I recovered and said that though I don’t know, I encourage students to look that convention up in the APA book if it’s relevant to their papers. I reminded them that APA conventions are easy to look up even online.
Ultimately, I feel I handled this situation relatively well. Given a do-over, I would have omitted the joke I made before my response to the question. However, I saw that this was a great learning experience for me as a teacher. It forced me to see that though I’d prepped for hours and hours, I can’t possibly know the answer to every question I may be asked as a teacher. Though to a novice teacher this can feel exasperating, accepting this notion and practicing my response when thrown curve balls such as this allows me to bring ease and grace to similar moments in the future.
Aside from the odd curve ball, I really enjoyed teaching this writing workshop because I was able to bring to bear my own experience in the professional world and as a job searcher. I brought to the class and showed a copy of the NCSU Career Center Job Search Guide I received as an undergraduate student (which I used to design the lesson and cited in my visuals), and shared that I still use it personally. I talked about specific experiences of mine and shared concrete tips that I used in my own life, for example, when submitting a resume and cover letter by email, send a .doc Word file and PDF of each so the employer has exactly what he/she needs; and, include an image of your signature in the closing of your cover letter to add a personal and professional touch. I planned to share my example of the first press release I wrote during my internship. My supervisor handed it back and it was covered in pen marks. I intended to share this when discussing the importance of concise writing skills in professional settings but, unfortunately, I forgot in the moment to share this example.
It was important for me to reinforce the foundational nature of good writing skills as a student and as a professional, and thus the relevance of this lesson. My plan was to illustrate that the workshop was relevant in the following ways: 1) writing resume and cover letter for the assignment due the following week, 2) writing good papers in this course and all academic courses 3) writing in the work place, and 4) writing resumes and cover letters to get an internship/job in the future. However, when I verbalized this point, I got stuck in a loop of trying to articulate how the academic writing tips intersect with resume and cover letter writing, rather than running through the four points listed above in a clear manner. If I were to teach this workshop again, I would begin and end by stating these four points clearly and succinctly.
When the class session ended, I felt it had gone well, though I wondered how to assess my own teaching. One fairly non-engaged student stayed after class to ask a question. He said the workshop was helpful to him. Several others stayed to ask questions. The student who had thrown me the curve ball question, who I had worked with throughout the semester on his writing, also stayed after to compliment my teaching. Though this feedback and engagement after class was encouraging, it was important to me to self-reflect on what went well and what could be improved.
Upon reflection, I felt the Power Point visuals were important to this workshop. Combining verbal discussion of proper formatting and grammar with concrete visuals helped students engage with the material. The messages that received the most participation were the writing tips, particularly the opportunity to point out basic typos and errors. I announced to the class that the examples were anonymously pulled from their own papers that were turned in this semester. Though this is not always possible to do, I think it added another layer of relevance to the lesson. Giving students the opportunity to critique and improve passages from their own and their classmates writing helped them step into the role of editor and understand how errors distract the reader from the writing content. I also had them critique a resume.
Power Point visual – parts of the cover letter
Though this is a lecture style course, the writing workshop received good participation, particularly during my break out activity. I gave students five minutes to pick which section headings to include in their own resumes based upon their strengths and to draft bullet points highlighting their responsibilities using action verbs. Then, they shared their work with a partner to refine their work and share ideas. Most students were very engaged in the activity. Several groups asked me the same question: how should I word that I handled cash at the cash register?
Overall, the visuals and the collaborative discussion were effective in engaging students in this lesson. This teaching experience has given me the tools to better handle curve ball questions and to more clearly articulate multi-pronged points in the future.