The LES team is ready to assist all faculty with pedagogical issues on an as needed basis. It can be as informal as a quick call or e-mail on how to handle a particular situation, as structured as a Small Group Instructional Diagnoses or a classroom observation (see below), or anywhere in between.
There are three critical things to keep in mind about any assistance provided by the LES team. First, it is up to you to decide how much and what kind of help you want. Second, we view ourselves as peers helping peers, rather than as experts with all the answers. We will, therefore, make every effort to provide appropriate resources, share experiences, and offer suggestions if requested, but we don't proscribe treatment. Third, all conversations are entirely confidential. You can put responses from the LES team in your file, but that is solely up to you.
Talking about Teaching
The LES team loves to talk about teaching, so give us a call. If you have a new idea you want to try out, and would like someone else's perspective before you walk into the classroom, try us. If you want advice on how to deal with a student whose behavior is bugging you, we'd be happy to offer advice or at least commensurate. If you want to talk about ways to manage the perennial problem of balancing active learning/student engagement with the need to cover content, we can help you think through the issues. If you need resources to dig deeper into a particular pedagogical approach, let us know, and we'll see what we can pull together. We're also happy to just join you for coffee and talk about teaching in general.
Making Sense of Student Evaluations
In addition to faculty generated pedagogical questions, the LES team often helps people sort out their end-of-term student evaluations. Given that we all tend to focus on isolated comments, faculty often find it helpful to get an outside perspective. The LES team can help sort through what matters, and help you decide what, if any, changes should be attempted in response.
Mid-Course Corrections, from Simple to SGIDS
Smart faculty know it is much wiser to get feedback from students at least once in the middle of the semester rather than waiting for the end-of-course evaluations. If you ask students for their input after the first third of the semester, you create goodwill by showing an interest in their perspective and have time to make meaningful corrections if they are merited. If nothing else, your response to their comments provides you an opportunity to re-state what you see as the key learning goals for the course and how you are attempting to achieve them.
Mid-course evaluations can be as simple as asking, "what has most helped you learn in this course," and "what could be done to make it easier for you to learn in this course." Faculty who want to remind students of their role often add a third questions, like "what could you do to improve your learning in this course?" If you want to try a somewhat more detailed approach, you can think about modifying this form created by Ken Jones from the work of Stephen Brookfield. Ken believes this approach elicits more specific responses that are quite helpful.
Small Group Instructional Diagnoses (SGID's) are the Cadillacs of mid-term feedback. SGID's are conducted by the LES team, and take a full class period. The instructor is not present. The LES facilitator begins by explaining that the instructor has asked for this assessment because s/he wants student help in creating the best possible course. Students are then asked to respond to the questions "what do you like best about this course," "what do you like least," and "what can you (the student) do to make this course better." The process retrieves individual views, a consensus on what the class as a whole sees as the most important aspects, and the degree to which each individual agrees with the class consensus. This structure provides the instructor with a very clear and balanced view of how the students view the class. After the SGID is completed, the LES facilitator meets with the instructors to discuss the results. The instructor receives a written report that includes summaries of student comment at the various levels (individual, small group, and large group) as well as the individual scaling. The written report belongs to the instructor; the LES office shreds all materials.
The most powerful form of individual assistance the LES team can provide is direct classroom observation. If you request an observation, you choose the date(s) and meet with the LES facilitator in advance to discuss the class and what you want to observer to watch for. On the day we attend your class, you can explain our presence as "faculty helping faculty to prefect their teaching." The LES team member will observe as requested, prepare a written summary, and meet with you to discuss the results.
Unlike observations done by members of the instructor's department, LES observations are the sole property of the instructor. The written report belongs to you; LES does not keep any materials and does not report on who has been observed.
Some faculty members do a classroom observation once just to get some outside feedback. Others invite an LES team member in when they are trying something new or risky because they want someone who has seen the experiment they can talk with and use as a resource for refinement. A number of faculty have asked LES to observe the same course over a stretch of several years as one means of evaluating progress.