When I first heard about the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW), I didn’t immediately run to sign up. The idea of someone videotaping me teach made me squirm (it still does). What? You want to not only tape my teaching but then someone is going to critique it and I have to watch it that night? Ugh.[Insert loud sigh here] OK. This is probably good for me. I am sure I wave my hands too much, I have been known to say ’cause instead of because, I wonder if I seem as distracted as I feel…yes, there are some things I can work on.
Fast forward a few months. It’s August 2010 and I am frantically reading my binder to make sure I am prepared (read, probably over-prepared). I create my first mini-lesson (you deliver three during ISW) and am ready to wow my fellow participants with all sorts of great information about one of my favourite sports – badminton!
Today, I’m not here to chat about how that lesson went or how hard it was to watch the video (yes, I watched it and it was very hard for me but I am also glad I watched it). For me, the most valuable part of that ISW experience was receiving instantaneous feedback from my peers in their role as learners. I heard immediately how they experienced the lesson. Honest, genuine feedback that helped me deeply understand what worked and what didn’t. There are, in my opinion, lots of other benefits to the ISW — building connections with peers, developing delivery skills, practicing lesson design, exploring participatory learning — the list is extensive and each participant will experience it in their own unique way. For me, it forced me to immediately challenge assumptions I had made about my learners. It gave me an opportunity to explore other areas of instruction, such as a lesson tied to the affective domain. It was a safe place to try something new, and it didn’t matter if it failed (note to self, test PowerPoint animation before the lesson).
Despite my initial misgivings, I realize now that my experience has changed my teaching. I simply see and think about things differently. This was my experience. There are dozens more colleagues at UW who have completed it, each with their own experience and perspective on its benefits and challenges. If you would like to know more about ISW, please do not hesitate to give me a call.
ps – The picture relates to one of the mini-lessons I completed at FDW, the Facilitator’s Development Workshop.