Training and Support Activities
There are a variety of activities useful for training and supporting teachers of undergraduate mathematics. Below is the beginnings of a taxonomy of such activities. Feel free to add to this list and to add any resources you’ve found helpful.
Teaching Seminars and Courses
Some departments run seminars and courses on mathematics teaching for their faculty and teaching assistants (TAs). Some of these are designed for pre-service TAs, that is, those graduate students who aren’t yet teaching as TAs but soon will be. Others are designed for in-service TAs, that is, those graduate students currently teaching as TAs. Attandance requirements can vary as well. Some teaching courses carry graduate-level course credit. Some are offered by mathematics departments, others by other units on campus such as graduate schools or teaching centers.
There’s value in each of the following kinds of teaching observations.
- Observations by novice teachers (such as TAs) of more experienced teachers (such as older TAs or faculty members)
- Observations of novice teachers by more experienced teachers.
- Observations of teachers by their peers (novice to novice or experienced teacher to experienced teacher)
Important components of these observations are
- a meeting between observer and observee prior to the observation to identify things for which the observer should look,
- some kind of guidance (perhaps an observation form or checklist) to the observer, directing his or her attention to various aspects of the teaching being observed, and
- a meeting between observer and observee after the observation to debrief and analyze the teaching just observed.
Resources for Observation
- University of Northern Colorado (Shandy Hauk)
Gathering and Analyzing Student Feedback
Gathering and analyzing student feedback often occurs in one of the following ways.
- Midterm Course Evaluation Forms: These involve anonymous written feedback on the course by the students at some point during the semester. They might be administered by the teacher or by the teacher’s department. Getting student feedback in the middle of the semester enables the teacher to make changes to improve his or her teaching and the students’ learning.
- Midterm Student Interviews: Also called a small group instructional diagnosis, this method involves an outside party (perhaps someone from the local teaching center) interviewing the teacher’s students while the teacher is out of the room (with permission of the teacher, of course). Often students are asked to reflect on the course and their learning in the course in small groups prior to a full class discussion.
- End-of-Semester Course Evaluation Forms: These familiar instruments request anonymous written student feedback near the end of the semester. Often used for evaluative purposes, these forms can also help teachers refine and improve their teaching between semesters.
Practice Teaching and Guest Lecturing
Practice teaching involves a teacher giving a partial or complete lesson to a group of peers (and perhaps a few students) and getting feedback on his or her lesson. Often this is done prior to giving a lesson in front of an entire class of students.
Guest lecturing involves a novice teacher giving a full lesson in someone else’s course, often as a way of gaining lecturing and classroom management experience prior to teaching his or her own course.
Course Meetings for Multi-Section Courses
If novice teachers are teaching sections of a coordinated, multi-section course, it is often useful to have regular (weekly or bi-weekly) meetings of all the instructors in the course to discuss lesson planning, teaching and learning goals, and course logistics.