Ivana Hughes Shares Why Faculty Should Reflect on the Teaching Experience with the CTL
By Ivana Hughes
Director of Frontiers of Science
Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Chemistry
During the Fall 2016 semester, I took part in CTL’s Reflective Teaching Seminar, alongside 14 other Frontiers of Science faculty members and another two dozen faculty, staff, and graduate students from across the University. As the Director of Frontiers of Science, I decided to participate in the program as a way of encouraging my colleagues to do the same, without thinking much about what I would personally gain from it.
I was pleasantly surprised during the course and upon completion to realize that there was so much that I could and did take away from this wonderful program. Five aspects of the experience stand out for me:
1. I put myself – truly – in my students’ shoes. It was great to be a student again, needing to complete reading and written assignments, meet deadlines, and participate in class. Was I talking too much in large group discussion? Would one hour be enough time to complete the reading? Going through the program helped me relate more to my own students and the kinds of struggles and questions they face while taking my course.
2. I felt validated when facilitators employed things that I do in my own classes. Program facilitators Suzanna Klaf, Amanda Irvin, and Christine Simonian Bean frequently utilized evidence-based techniques that I had either come to on my own or learned from others or the scholarly literature on teaching. And yet it was valuable to see these techniques play out from the vantage point of a student, giving me more confidence in my own teaching.
3. I learned new things from readings, facilitators, and other faculty. The topics covered and the accompanying readings were carefully chosen and a lot of fun to learn about or brush up on. I gained some new vocabulary when thinking about learning objectives, alignment, and assessment. I also learned some new techniques from the facilitators, such as taping prompts around the classroom and having students walk around in small groups to discuss the posted questions. Learning from peers (as I always hope is the case for my own students) was an absolute highlight. The final piece of the program entailed brief presentations conducted in small groups, and I loved seeing my colleagues’ presentations. I plan to employ some of what I learned from them in the future.
4. I received specific feedback on my own teaching. During the seminar, I participated in a teaching observation which included watching a video of my class, giving rise to much reflection. My interactions with Suzanna during the observation process were not only motivating and inspiring but also helped me to think through the model I use when I observe my Frontiers of Science colleagues in their classes.
5. I connected with colleagues who share my passion and commitment to teaching and building community. Arguably the most valuable of all aspects of the experience was getting to know thoughtful and dedicated teachers and spending more time with my own fabulous colleagues, all in the service of acknowledging our hard work and enthusiasm for teaching and learning. Thursday afternoons (every other week) turned into feel-good moments that I greatly appreciated.
I highly recommend participation to anyone who wants to add to their pedagogical repertoire, refresh their knowledge of latest evidence-based teaching methods, and most of all take some time to celebrate the growing community of committed teachers we have at Columbia. Grab a colleague on the way – going through the program with a peer will make the experience even more valuable and fun.
The CTL is now accepting applications for the CTL’s Spring 2017 seminar programs: the Reflective Teaching Seminar and the Digital Literacy for Instructional Practices Seminar. Stay tuned to our mailing list to learn about more upcoming opportunities for faculty and instructors.