Would I get in trouble if my colleagues knew what I was doing?
Sometimes I would like my colleagues to know what goes on in my classroom and the lengths I go to enhance my students learning experience. Despite teaching hundreds of people every day, teaching can be an isolating profession, particularly at third level. As a rule we don’t participate in peer observation, we rarely open ourselves for others to see. I wondered; would I get given out to about my teaching methods? Recently I decided to take the plunge and I’ve let colleagues into my classroom and I’ve also sat in theirs. I definitely didn’t get in trouble, as a matter of fact, quite the opposite I got a lot of praise. Getting praise was not my intention, although I must admit was a nice side effect. The real benefit was in the feedback I got from my colleagues. The amount I learnt in such a short space of time was incredible. But convincing others to do the same is not as straight forward as you would expect. The reluctance I have met and the excuses that I have heard have been incredible.
We really need to foster a culture of sharing of ideas and expertise. Sharing resources through the likes of www.ndlr.ie, although that is a step in the right direction, is not the complete solution. Sharing experiences and techniques will undoubtedly enhance your teaching experience which of course should have knock on effects to the students learning experience. Peer observation is an ideal technique to achieve this and every head of department should encourage their staff to take the plunge and see what they can learn from their friends. In addition to participating in peer observation with some close colleagues I would also encourage everybody to participate in teaching and learning conferences – a topic I discuss in a later post.