This week, I started my new gig and got to observe two classes.
First, a 3000-level philosophy course called “Theory of Knowledge.”
Then a 1000-level nutrition course called “Scientific Foundations in Nutrition and Health.”
In the philosophy class, students were reviewing William James’s “The Will to Believe” and discussing Susanna Rinard’s work on Robust Pragmatism.
In the nutrition class, students were studying vitamins and minerals.
At one point, their instructor asked them how many colors had been on their dinner plate the night before.
I thought about mine — an avocado bagel, leftover brussels sprouts, and green grapes — and made a mental note to eat more colors every day.
Anyway, what a cool perk of this job!
When I applied, I knew it involved course observations, but I had overlooked the obvious fact that I’d get to sit in on classes taught by people from departments all over the university.
And now I think know a little bit about what some people believe about what other people believe we think we believe about what we believe.
And I was also reminded about some basic but necessary information about vitamins and minerals and how they’re necessary, for instance, for helping us to fight the germs that have been gathering on the desks and chairs we were sitting at/on for who knows how many years since they were last cleaned, which inspired a collective ewwwwww from everyone in the auditorium at 8am lol. good morning!
I also got to observe an after-observation consultation, for a class that had maybe been about community organizing?
Not sure, exactly, but it sounded cool.
Mostly, we were troubleshooting the group work that happened in that class, and I learned about this catchy little phrase, “think-pair-share,” which is a faster way to get to talking about how we ask students to think about something, pair them up to discuss it, then have them share with the whole class.
I also learned about “teacher-to-student, student-to-student, and student-to-self” interactions (ideally, all three should happen in the classes we observe).
Teacher-to-student might be lecture; student-to-student might be group work; student-to-self involves students finding personal, individual, meaningful takeaways.
Something I realized as a result of my observations and consultations, though, is that I can do better with my beginning-of-class agenda.
So, in the past, my agenda might have sounded something like this: “Today, we’ll start with a quiz on X, then we’ll discuss Homework Y, and before you leave we’ll get a look ahead at Z for next time.”
But now I realize a better agenda might sound like: “By the end of class today, you should be able to [verb] X, and also to [verb] Y, in order to appreciate Z [or, this very important thing about how today’s agenda is related to this entire class overall].