I spent the last month leading training sessions with a partner. Some would call this team teaching. We would plan ahead and decide who was going to do what, and when that was going to happen. Most times we had different ideas about how to approach the training, so we would give our own interpretation and try to complement the other’s. This worked after a fashion. With more lead time we could have prepared a more coordinated effort.
But the biggest benefit was to see how my partner pulled off what I thought was a ridiculous series of activities in the pursuit of an irrelevant goal. After dispensing with my built-in critical ideas and prejudices, I found that there was definitely more than one way to get to the goal.
We would sit down after class and hash over what had happened as well. We gave each other useful insights, and after the first few tentative days, were more forthcoming about what we thought. This has improved my teaching immensely, giving me another set of tools I had chosen not to develop, now available in cases and situations I used to ignore.
Most of us, however, teach in an environment where peer evaluation or team teaching are not possible, given the social constraints. I have found that setting up a video camera for short portions of my class has almost as much of a benefit. With the technology available today, it is very easy to do. Sometimes I hand my smart phone to a student and ask them to video me, on the spur of the moment.
Some quick caveats:
- Tell the students the video is there for YOU, not for them.
- Only do a small portion of your class (I do about 5 minutes)
- Watch it more than once. Look for a different thing each time.
- Take notes, even if you just throw them away.
- Try it again six months later, to see if you have improved.
I have found that, especially with verbal and physical quirks, this method can help. But it also leads to deeper questions, like, “Why did I do that?” Video taping myself has lead to some really interesting insights. You should try it.