One of my favourite jobs as a teaching developer is to visit other people’s classrooms. I get to learn new things while providing a helpful service (observation and report for feedback to individual instructors). There’s another benefit that accrues too, though. I get to bring ideas from a panoply of disciplinary approaches back to my own classroom, reinvigorating my own teaching and ratcheting up my students’ learning.
Rarely is this more apparent than during our Open Classroom series. Open Classroom is Waterloo’s unique way of celebrating our Distinguished Teaching Award winners by asking them to do some work! Each term, if possible, we ask the DTA winner to open his or her doors to other professors, new or more seasoned, it doesn’t matter. The attendees (a few to half a dozen, depending on the room capacity) sit in on the live classroom as observers, and then have an opportunity to ask questions for an hour after the class. This gives a chance not only for the visitors to experience what it’s like to be a learner in the Award-winner’s class, but for the professor to explain his or her thinking behind instructional approaches taken that day.
What is really important here is that one need not be from the professor’s home discipline to benefit from this observation and discussion. I have certainly learned some things from Waterloo professors I’ve observed, and while some of it has gone way over my head, the techniques themselves have found their way directly or indirectly into my own cultural studies lectures (even math and physics approaches!). I would heartily encourage attendance at this term’s Open Classroom (Ted McGee’s English course, the Rebel) and future Open Classrooms, regardless of your own discipline. You will find some relevance in watching and asking about a different approach, I am sure.
The Centre for Teaching Excellence welcomes contributions to its blog. If you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of Waterloo (or beyond!) and would like contribute a posting about some aspect of teaching or learning, please contact Mark Morton or Trevor Holmes.