Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Team teaching

Today Fantastic Adviser surprised Other TA and I by letting us know we were each going to lead 1/3 of the lecture class of 100 students through a practice final exam essay question. That's fine, except that there were two classrooms for the three of us, which meant that Other TA and I ended up sharing a large classroom, teaching about 70 students between us, with both of us at the front of the room, sharing chalkboards.

That was a bit awkward, and I imagine especially so for Other TA, since my teaching voice is considerably louder than hers and since I'm more prone, it appears, to breaking my students off into small groups and having them talk through quandaries than she is. So my side of the room was quite a bit louder than hers. Oops.

What was interesting about the exercise was getting general instructions from Fantastic Adviser and then watching Other TA and I interpret those instructions as we saw fit. It's one thing to watch someone else teach and learn from it. It's another thing to watch someone else teach the same content you will be covering or have covered. It's another thing entirely to teach the same content simultaneously in the same room. Although I'm pretty confident about my teaching, I found myself wondering if I was using the best exam prep method.

Our approaches were quite a bit different, but both worked well, I think. Other TA was far more methodical and organized than I was, so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to push my students as far along as she did hers, but we ended up in much the same place, with each of our big groups workshopping a couple of thesis statements and identifying the best evidence to support those theses. I'm definitely seeing some improvement in students' critical thinking and I hope that comes out in their exams on Thursday.

(Yes, you read that correctly: finals on Thursday. While most of you academics are on your spring break, leisurely making your way through a semester, we're finishing up one term and gearing up for another. The quarter system is brutal, and we're upping the ante a bit in this course by having the students take their final exams a bit early so that we can use the long final exam period for group presentations. I'm a bit worried about how I'm going to pull together my course for next quarter and still get the diss done. It will happen, but I'm afraid the course will suffer for it.)

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