Innovation in Teaching Requires Two Parties
One cannot advocate change at social scales without letting new air to blow into the body of knowledge and its mode delivery. In my classes I do my best to adopt new pedagogical techniques, engage in constant dialogue with my students, and welcome suggestions. I closely go over my students’ course evaluations and keep logs of my good and bad teaching experiences to consistently reflect on my teaching. If needed, for example when I feel that despite my efforts some students just do not participate, I reach out to my peers and senior faculty members to seek advice. I believe that reaching out to faculty members and my peers is beneficial on multiple levels. It, for example, creates a collegial environment where instead of constant competition, a sense of camaraderie and trust grows, it helps my peers to reach out to me when they need to discuss their experiences, and finally, it enriches our knowledge of different possible incidents in the class and best practices of managing those situations.
Due to the high regard I have for students and their comments, I do my own evaluations both by daily check-ins as well as an anonymous written evaluation in the fifth week of the semester (document attached). Since the final evaluations administered by the university happen in the last week of semester, they are only useful to be used in the future classes. My own formative evaluations early in the semester, however, provide me with a timely feedback to make appropriate changes. After administering them in the fifth week of the class, I produce a Power Point sharing the results with the class and discussing them with my students. They often provide me with insightful and useful suggestions for improving instruction.
Another innovative aspect of my class is having group exams. Group exams deepen students’ knowledge of the material through collaboration. They also teach students to learn to thrive together rather than surviving individually. Sometimes, I notice some resistance against having exams in groups. Some students think that they fare better on their own, some want to extricate themselves from the “burden” of group work and collaboration, and some are worried about the problem of free-riders. Therefore, I make it optional for students to take the exam individually or in groups. As we approach the exam day, more often than not, I see how those reluctant students start showing some doubts about their assumptions about group work. They start asking for more clarification on the dynamics of group exam (rubric attached). They become interested. My 11 semesters of teaching shows that almost nobody takes the exam individually on the exam day. This proves that if the environment is regulated rigorously and fairly, and if the rules and expectations are outlined clearly, students prefer collective work and success to individual struggle and triumph.