Resources and suggestions needed for improving my teaching skills
April 3, 2013 6:37 AM Subscribe
So I've been doing a little bit of teaching of free adult classes in my erstwhile academic specialty, an area of literature. (I am not an academic and do not teach except for community stuff.) I have trouble with big group discussion and balancing my role in the class.
posted by Frowner to education (13 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I used to be just a godawful teacher with no idea how to structure a class; maturity and some activist trainings have given me enough skills that I am competent. I feel like I'm pretty good at choosing readings and planning small group activities (even creating discussion questions for small groups). But I feel like I break down when I need to work with the group as a whole. Sometimes we need to do whole-group stuff because the class size is too small for small groups; sometimes it's because I want to see where the whole group is at; and sometimes it's because I want to give the group specific information.
But I feel like I have these problems:
1. Things get rambly easily. I have trouble following up on and linking comments to comments.
2. I often feel undirected - like, I can think of an initial discussion question but I can't help students get to a deeper or more complex level. If the question confuses students (not because I've phrased it poorly but because it's difficult) I have trouble getting past that. In small groups, they can work some of this stuff out for themselves and in any case, I am less responsible for directing the outcomes.
3. What do you do if there is a point that you want students to get and they are not getting it? I find myself veering into "just tell them already", which skews discussion more toward "lecture". In big classes where we're alternating between small group, pair and whole group work I don't mind about this, but in a small class, it bothers me.
4. How do you write really good discussion questions, especially when students have various levels of familiarity with the topic and academic background?
5. How do you stay "teacherly" and not get too chatty? I am really excited about this topic and can easily get derailed into sharing My! Views! Of! Literature!
Basically, I feel like we don't get deep enough into the material and I feel like that's because I am somehow failing to direct the class right, but I can't seem to fix it. There isn't massive student unhappiness but I would really like to provide more to the students than I am currently.
I am teaching people who either are doing, have done or are capable of doing college-level work, virtually all of whom are older than twenty but most of whom are younger than me.
Any suggestions from your experience or materials you'd recommend would be useful.