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  • Writer's pictureBethany Huebner

Can I Play in Jeans?

Updated: Feb 17, 2020


clinician educator

I was back in college again and riding in a car with my parents. We were heading to one of my volleyball matches, but instead of the game being at our typical gymnasium, it was at a big arena in the downtown area of a big city. My parents pulled up to the arena, but couldn’t find a place to park anywhere. So, we drove around and drove around until finally finding street parking several blocks away. I wasn’t worried or stressed yet, in fact, I was eerily calm. I was also dressed in street clothes and only had my volleyball shoes in my hands. I briefly look at my watch and realize I only have 20 minutes until warm-ups begin and my parents are walking so slow, so I ditch them (respectfully). As I sprint to the arena and come to the dressing rooms, I see my teammates. They are entering the arena already dressed in their uniforms and ask me where my uniform is. I respond with utter shock and say, “I thought Coach was bringing all of our equipment…all I brought were my shoes.” I quickly realize, no I was supposed to bring all of my gear and quickly have a flood of thoughts rushing through my brain trying to figure out how I will get home to my equipment and back in time before the game.


That is when I wake up…sweating, rapid breathing, and feeling utterly terrible.


It’s my sixth-year teaching and somehow, I find myself feeling like my first year again.


Nervous excitement.


Conscious incompetence.


A state of feeling behind, yet invigorated by the constant learning.


My recent dream probably needs no interpretation from a professional. I am feeling behind and just waiting for a ball to drop. In previous years, I have had all of my lectures mapped out and PowerPoints completed prior to the start of the semester. I could just go on autopilot and follow the plan. Of course, there were things that required some deviation, but for the most part I could just cruise. Not this year. This year, I decided to do a redesign. I decided to take a course I have been teaching the past six years and completely blow up the syllabus and start from scratch. I can’t describe to you the reason that spurred this complete redesign (I’m blaming it on my PhD classes and learning more about good teaching strategies), but nonetheless here I am. I’ve added activities to spur deeper learning, group quizzes to have learning checkpoints along the way, and I completely redid the flow of the course in regard to content. Each week, I’m one lecture away from not being ready for the next class period because every one of my previous PowerPoints no longer work. I think you can get a sense now why I may be dreaming what I am…


How will I know if all of this new work was worth it? How will I know if the activities, group quizzes, and new lectures actually are helping students learn?


I could wait until the end of the semester when I see the scores on the comprehensive final exam and receive my student feedback forms. But, why wait until then? At the end of the semester, it is too late to make adjustments. The time period between receiving the student feedback forms and their final grades and the next year teaching the same content is a long time…and I forget. What if the students knew of one or two small things that I could tweak that would help their learning and understanding better right now? What if I took the time to ask them?


My plan to assess this redesign – complete a Mid-Semester Interview about Teaching (MIT). A MIT is an evaluation tool that allows your students to communicate the strengths and weaknesses of the course in real-time. The MIT is best run by a colleague of yours instead of yourself, as students do not typically tell you exactly how they feel when their grade may be on the line. Asking a colleague to run it, allows anonymity on behalf of the students and when that is the case…they let loose. The MIT contains two simple questions:

  1. What are the major strengths of this course? What is helping you learn?

  2. What changes would you make in this course to assist you in learning?

Your colleague who has graciously decided to run your MIT will pose those questions to your students and then separate them into small groups where they will discuss for a few minutes. Students will then write their responses on the board. Once all the responses have been written, then your colleague will discuss all the responses as a group. This is the best part…peer norming. By discussing answers to both questions, students can hear how others feel about the issue and may back off on how important it is…or…they may just gain traction. Either way, the group discussion gives you a better sense of what the whole as a class really sees as strengths and weaknesses. After group discussion is complete, then your colleague compiles all the responses into a summary and then meets with you to discuss. This summary gives you some real-time feedback that you can implement even as early as the next class period.


And whoa…what a message that communicates to your students. They see that you really care about the course and their feedback…they feel validated and heard. This pays dividends in the future when say an activity doesn’t go as planned or if the schedule has to be rearranged. Students don’t always know what they need, but taking the time to listen to what they want creates an environment where they feel actively involved in the process instead of a passive participant. I don’t always make every change they have suggested, but I try to make all the ones I can. I am also sure to discuss with the students why or why I can’t make the changes suggested. All around this is a great evaluation tool to provide you with real-time feedback about how the trajectory of the course is going, so, if need be, you can change that trajectory in a positive direction before the semester runs out.


Would you like to do a MIT, but your school doesn’t have a formal program? No worries…feel free to email me at bethany@drbhuebner.com and I will be happy to walk you through it.


Speaking of seeking feedback…I need your help. I am truly enjoying writing this blog each week, but I want to make sure I’m providing you with what you need. I want to hear from you: your wants, your needs, and your opinions. Will you take 5 minutes and fill out my reader survey so I can continue to bring you effective content each week? Click Here to fill it out. Please also feel free to post a link on social media or email your friends so I can hear from a large group of people.


As always I appreciate your time reading this content.

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4 comentários


Bethany Huebner
Bethany Huebner
19 de out. de 2019

Oh I totally get it. Our time is constantly being spread thin these days. One of my biggest struggles the first few years of teaching was knowing what to cut out of a lecture. In fact, as I am revamping one of my courses this semester I find myself struggling with that again. I try to go back to the mantra of what is nice to know and what is need to know. Sometimes that helps me narrow doing information, but other times I find myself with still too much need to know. If that is the case then I try to think of an activity or assignment that would work more efficiently for me than trying to just cra…

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dgillette
18 de out. de 2019

Hi Bethany,

I think the feeling is of too much to do and how do I carve out time or what do I cut out. If we are honest there is time there (I'm reading Hitting Pause by Gail Taylor Rice as part of a book club at our Center for Teaching and Learning); maybe at the book club I'll bring this up as a possibility as well - thanks!

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Bethany Huebner
Bethany Huebner
15 de out. de 2019

dgillette, What a great idea you are already employing! I like how you are leveraging technology to aide in feedback which does cut down on time for you, a colleague, and the students. I think the one powerful thing missing is the peer norming that occurs when completed live and with a different instructor. Your concern about time is a legitimate one as to complete a MIT you will have to sacrifice some instructional time. If you carve out 20-30 minutes of the end of a class period then there really isn’t extra time for the student involved. As far as creating more time/work for your colleagues, it really isn’t a huge stretch of extra time. Your colleague will hav…

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dgillette
15 de out. de 2019

I do something similar where I give an anonymous survey at the midterm point with those two questions and maybe 1-2 more (if I'm focusing on something specific). I then categorize the responses and create a slide for the next class where I'll go over the categories and state what changes I can make, or explain my rationale (briefly!) for why it is that way. I've gotten pretty good responses in my final evaluations about responsiveness to student concerns. I'm in Year 3, and I like the idea of having someone else do it for the reasons you explain. The challenging part would be the extra time on my colleague's part and on the students' part. How do you ad…

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