How to Improve Your Teaching
Most instructors regard their teaching as an intensely personal matter. While they may be more than willing to allow colleagues to critique their written work, they are unlikely to invite them into their classrooms to observe and make comments. However, teaching is like any other academic endeavor—it is an acquired skill, one more easily gained if you get specific feedback on how you are doing.
If you decide that you wish to make significant improvements in your teaching, the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning can help you identify the specific skills and strategies that will enhance your teaching style. This is particularly true when you aren’t quite sure what needs improving. For some faculty and TAs, it has taken as little as a student small-group evaluation to enhance their questioning technique or grading policy. For others, it has required considerable time to learn better methods of organization or delivery. VPTL events and workshops can be a source of new ideas and support to try them. The crucial factor in each case has been the teacher’s willingness to recognize the need for change and to try new approaches.
You may be motivated by a specific goal, such as the desire to try a particularly innovative class format or to increase the average attendance in your large lectures from 60 to 90 percent. In this case, turning to the collective wisdom of your colleagues, the advice of students you know well, the Teaching Commons website, or the resource library available at the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning may be enough. VPTL, on the fourth floor of Sweet Hall, has a wide collection of books and journals on almost every aspect of teaching. You will find dozens of ideas on better lecture techniques alone, for example.
Any steps that you take to improve your teaching are likely to be worthwhile both professionally and personally. Faculty at research universities are increasingly expected to teach well, as has long been the case at student- oriented liberal arts colleges and most state colleges and universities. When well done, teaching can be a source of enormous personal satisfaction and pleasure. Successful contact with students can balance the sometimes lonely aspects of pure scholarship; it also gives you a chance to pass on those values, ideas, and passions that are at the core of your commitment to scholarship.
You can begin by looking over the list of VPTL services and committing to trying at least one over the course of your next teaching quarter.