Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach and Reflecting on Your Own Teaching

CS298 / EDUC298

Spring 2021

Stanford University

Computer Science Department

Lecturer: Chris Gregg

  • You should continuously strive to improve your teaching!
    • You don't simply learn to teach and then apply it unchanged for the rest of your teaching career
    • You want to grow to become a better teacher
    • No one is the same teacher in the be- ginning of their career as they are in the end of their career
  • Teaching is predominantly done alone
    • The teacher is responsible for all aspects of the course (but may have TAs to delegate to)
    • Co-teaching does happen, and can be a great opportunity -- if you can co-teach, do it
    • Because teaching is largely independent, you might not get to see others teach, which is unfortunate (that said: as students, you get to see lots of teachers! Observe them whenever you can!)
  • You should regularly observe other teachers
    • Don't just observe "good" teachers -- you can learn something from all teachers.
    • Don't limit yourself to just observing CS teachers, either -- cross-pollination is always a good thing

Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach and Reflecting on Your Own Teaching

  • Your job when observing another class is to concentrate on the teaching, not the content.
    • The content is secondary, though it is nice to see something you may also teach some day
    • Focus on the students as well as the instructor -- observe what students are doing
      • Are they paying attention?
      • Are they taking notes?
      • Are they distracted by an electronic device, or a neighbor?
      • If you get the chance either before or after the class to introduce yourself to some students, you can ask them what they think of the course and get their general impressions.
    • Before you observe a class, ask the instructor if they would mind if you observe
      • Ask if they have a particular class they would like you to see.
      • Some instructors are happy for you to visit their class whenever you’d like, and others do not like observers – if you get the impression that the instructor does not want you there, then find someone else to observe.
    • When you observe a class, arrive early, and find a spot near the back of the class (or, if it is a small class, ask the instructor where they would like you to sit).
      • Don't make small-talk with the instructor! A quick hello is fine

Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach and Reflecting on Your Own Teaching

  • Observe anything that the instructor does before class
    • Are they setting up?
    • Are they talking with students?
  • During class, take notes on what you see. Here is one method:

Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach and Reflecting on Your Own Teaching

  • As the class progresses, jot down the time on the left, and then your observations and any notes you might have.
  • Keeping these kinds of notes can help you recall what you thought was important in the class, and any questions you might have for the instructor.
  • During your observation, write down anything that you think is unique, or that you think is interesting about the way the in- structor teaches.
  • Highlight anything that you would like to include in your own teaching, and also highlight the things that didn’t work that well (e.g., were the students distracted near the end of class?)
  • After the class is over, you should thank the instructor, and you should consider asking the instructor if you could go over your notes some time with them
    • Ask any questions you have about the lecture
      • Discuss what you liked
      • Don't focus on your feedback -- focus on what you thought was excellent, and ask for any tips about how to deliver something
  • If you can, ask students what they thought -- they may have an insight you missed
  • After you leave the class, reflect on what you observed
    • Is there anything you might want to copy for your own teaching?
    • If something didn't go well, use that as something you might want to avoid

Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach and Reflecting on Your Own Teaching

  • When you teach, you should reflect on your own teaching
    • Just like athletes think about how they can improve, and then train for it, you should do the same thing.
      • It takes time to reflect, but it will have dividends
  • ​Before each class:
    • Think of one key thing (or possibly two) you want to do well.
      • Maybe you want to facilitate a detailed class demonstration of a certain sorting technique, or maybe you want to introduce a proof by asking students key ideas that will lead them towards the solution.
      • ​Jot down a couple of outcomes that will indicate a success (e.g., lots of students participated, and we ended up with the correct proof ), and an outcome that indicates that you still to work on the technique (e.g., students were confused)
      • If you have taught the course before, consult any notes you took to review what went well and what didn't​

Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach and Reflecting on Your Own Teaching

  • After each class
    • Look at the potential outcomes you hoped for -- how did you do?
    • Take some quick notes on what went well, and what you might change for next time
    • Keep this list where you can find it next time!
    • Get some feedback from the class (Tiny Feedback?)
  • After an assessment
    • Reflect on how it went
      • How did the students do?
      • What kinds of questions did they have (about an assignment, for instance)
      • Could you have made a better handout for an assignment (yes)
      • Did you prepare them enough before the assessment?​​
      • Keep notes! Make changes!
  • ​At the end of the term
    • Congratulate yourself -- you did it!
    • Read the student evaluations (but be wary -- this might be frustrating)
    • Take any constructive feedback seriously
  • Recording lectures?

Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach and Reflecting on Your Own Teaching

  • What to do if?

Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach and Reflecting on Your Own Teaching

  • This assignment may not work great during an online quarter. If you can't figure out how to observe someone teach this week, try to do it when we are back to in-person learning.
  • Find  time this week to observe a class you aren't currently taking, and follow the guidelines in this presentation.
  • It can be any class you aren't currently in
  • Observe the teaching, not the content!
  • Consider filling out notes as per this slideshow
  • Write a couple of paragraphs on your observations
  • If you can, talk to the professor afterwards, but this is not critical

Assignment: Observe a class!

Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach

By Chris Gregg

Lecture 07: Observing Others Teach

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