Thursday, May 12, 2011

Reflecting on our semester

Having finished courses for the year, I regularly think and write about what went well and what I want to change.  Reflecting on your course is best done in the moment, by thinking about what has just happened and how you reacted to the events of the semester.  Reflective writing can take many forms, such as an entry in a teaching journal or through a quick note added to your course material folder or notebook, even a brainstorm list that you file for reference next year.  Be sure to note what worked as well as what did not; these jottings can help you remember how the course worked in action (often different from your mental image and plans!) and help you make improvements to the course. 

I posted previously on creative teaching and reflective practice, but at this time I want to share with you a letter from a faculty member who participated in the Faculty Inquiry Group on Creative Teaching (we at the Tenn TLC offer several FIGs each year).  Each person ended the semester with a reflection--a letter to colleagues--on the group's discussions. In her letter, Dr. Polly McArthur, PhD, RN, from the UT College of Nursing, writes:

Dear Colleague,

For the past 8-10 weeks, I have had the pleasure of meeting on Friday afternoons with a small group of professors to talk about creativity in teaching. We are interested in engaging students in creative learning activities at the university. We brought topics of interest to the group, shared ideas and experiences, and asked for help with particular challenges.
            Our group leader asked us to write a letter to you – an unnamed “you” who perhaps represents a college professor in the early 21st century. I want to share with you my thoughts on creativity in teaching. I would like to be a creative person, but I question exactly what I mean by the term creative. Does this mean being original, talented, gifted, unique, outstanding, exciting, inspiring, or just memorable? I am certainly not the next American Idol of College Professors. I believe my goal is to try new ways of doing things in my course that accomplish the learning objectives but give the students some freedom to make the experience their own.
            If I strive to innovate, where do I find my inspiration, support, and energy to imagine something anew? For me, there are three critical pillars for this process, which is ongoing and never fully attained. First, I have to stay rooted in the basics of my discipline of nursing. I must examine and re-examine the knowledge of my field. Second, I must associate with people who are inspiring, skillful in collaboration, and constructively critical of my teaching, my vision, my interactions, and anything related to my professional aspirations. Third, I must try to walk in the students’ shoes to understand their responses to the learning environment. How am I creating both opportunity and means for them to create a personal experience that facilitates a change in capacity?
            Creativity, in essence, is open to interpretation. It is a breath of fresh air when life seems weighted down with the mundane or the expected. Perhaps just working towards higher levels of creativity is as important as finding a definite answer to some perceived problem or deficiency. As professionals who guide learning in the university setting, we are fortunate to connect with other people and continually transform our being in the world.
`                                   Sincerely,

Monday, May 2, 2011

An off-the-wall idea

A recent article in the NY Times points out that we may think we remember and know material well when we have an easy time processing what we read. A review of recent studies of memory points out that processing is not the same as recall--and that difficult fonts make us pay more attention and learn better.

You might want to send out study sheets today in Lucinda Handwriting!

Joking aside, the studies reviewed are interesting; I recommend the article: