reflections on teaching November 8

Reflections on Teaching: From Surviving to Thriving

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Editor’s Note: In part one of this article, the author shared openly some of the mistakes he made early in his teaching career. In this entry, he outlines some of the changes he’s made to his teaching over the years and the principles he uses to guide his teaching.

I had known it all along at some level, but now it suddenly became glaringly obvious to me. Deep down, sometimes out of conscious reach, students want to be transformed and their lives made more useful, productive, and powerful. I added the following new goal to my personal mission statement:


teaching mistakes November 7

Reflections on Teaching: Mistakes I’ve Made

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I started teaching at American University at the age of 56 after a rewarding career as an environmental and wildlife film producer. That was almost ten years ago, and I’ll be the first to admit that I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I had never taught before and I wasn’t even sure where to begin. I had no teaching philosophy beyond some vague, unarticulated feeling that I wanted my students to do well. And so, I started asking lots of questions.


mentoring September 11

Mentoring: Feeding the Brain, Cultivating the Heart, and Building Courage

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As educators, we are privileged to build relationships and help thousands of students reach their full potential each year. At times, we have had nearly 750 students in our first-year undergraduate anatomy course, which meant that we were graciously offered the support of approximately 20 learning facilitators for that iteration of the course. First off, we acknowledge that the official term used in our institution is Teaching Assistant (TA), but let’s be honest—we are in this as a team, so let’s break down that hierarchy of who really is the “teacher” here and who is the “assistant.” We call them learning facilitators regardless of what their contract says.


three professors July 31

Teaching Squares Bring Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives

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I regularly hear colleagues complaining that they never have time to discuss teaching, and I know this is true in my liberal arts and sciences campus at this large research university. We devote so much of our time to teaching students, preparing classes, grading student work, and doing research that there’s little time left to compare notes with our colleagues, even those next door. On those rare occasions when we do, it’s often a pleasant surprise. Interesting teaching strategies are being implemented all around us. When this happens to me I often think, “I wish I could come see how you do that!”


faculty development July 30

Let’s Practice What We Teach: Flipping Faculty Development

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Faculty everywhere are flipping their classes, but can we flip faculty development? That’s the question I asked myself when I flipped the pre-conference workshop at the 2016 Teaching Professor Technology Conference. What I discovered is that we can “practice what we teach” and design faculty-centered learning experiences much the same way we design student-centered learning experiences.

In this article, I provide a few recommendations for flipping a faculty development workshop. For further inspiration, the article concludes with a showcase of the work created by the participants in my workshop last fall.


July 26

Take Advantage of Opportunities to Sustain Your Instructional Vitality

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As my work on career-long growth and development for college teachers progresses, I continue to fret about the haphazard way we take care of our instructional health. To begin (and this is not our fault), we work hard and are way too busy. Whether it’s teaching five courses a semester or teaching less but having a research agenda that must be moving forward and continuously productive, we have precious little time for one more thing that might interfere with the frenetic motions required to keep our heads above water.


female professor in front of white board July 24

Rejuvenating Experiences: Tales of an Unlikely Classroom Collaboration

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The end of a long academic year is probably the time when we are most open to the idea of a rejuvenating instructional experience. In a recent workshop, I heard two teachers describe just such an experience. They team-taught an introductory English lit course with content that explored veteran experiences. Before the workshop started, it was clear they were an unlikely team. She was the rather typical English prof, a tad disorganized, fussing with the technology, comfortably relaxed before the group. He was a former Marine, standing off to the side, trying to look relaxed but actually more at attention than at ease.


faculty development July 23

Flexible Faculty Development Opportunities

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One of the most persistent challenges for instructional designers is finding a convenient time to schedule faculty development training sessions. If scheduled during the summer, the workshop is subject to poor attendance because faculty are preparing for the fall. If it is scheduled in the fall, teaching responsibilities and committee work can impede professional development attendance. The same holds true for the spring semester.


instructional risk-taking July 19

Taking Risks in Your Teaching

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Often in workshops when I’m speaking about the process of implementing change—deciding what to change and how to change it or considering whether to add a new instructional strategy—the question of risk lurks in the choices being considered. When attending a workshop or program that offers a range of instructional possibilities, teachers typically respond to some favorably. I see it—they write down the idea, nod, or maybe ask a follow-up question to be sure they understand the details. Not all the ideas presented get this favorable response. Occasionally, the response is overtly negative. But more often there is no response. The idea doesn’t resonate.