Doubts and Beliefs

I am very fortunate to work at an institution that supports a teaching center.  I don’t know if this dedicated focus on supporting innovative and excellent teaching is available at other pre-professional schools, but it’s an excellent resource for all faculty on our campus. Since we are tied with a liberal arts school, we benefit from the ways they support their emphasis on teaching.
Tonight, I participated in a session called “Sharing Responsibility for Classroom Environments and Learning.” It forwarded many ideas that I already firmly believe in, but did it in ways that helped me to broaden the ways I talk about these values by eliciting comments from colleagues that I have never talked to about teaching. (Essentially, it ties in with a lot of things I’ve already written about, especially mid-term evaluations, reflection, involving students in learning and assessment, and getting out of your comfort zone.)

There were two activities that I really loved and look forward to incorporating into my classrooms. [The second will be described in my next blog post.]  The first was an activity that has been around since I was born, but this was the first time I was exposed to it.  You present a provocative statement, set up the dichotomy of doubts vs. beliefs, and give people time to think and write.  Tonight’s provocative statement was: Students can share responsibility with faculty for developing classroom environments and engaged approaches to learning.  I didn’t find this particularly provocative, but had no problem coming up with words for my doubts column. Oddly enough, one thing I noticed upon reflection is that my doubts column consisted mostly of questions while my beliefs column featured statements. Here’s my worksheet from tonight.

The worksheet served multiple useful purposes (great bang for the buck): it framed our 2.5 hour workshop, served as a measuring stick against which we developed new beliefs and doubts as the workshop progressed, launched conversations, and was a physical take-away from the evening.

I really want to use it in my classes because I think it will add depth to discussions that are often barely scratch the surface of what students really think.  But, I’m not sure how best to use it with second semester freshmen who are still reeling from realizing how much music theory they forgot over the span of 7 weeks.

This workshop was led by Alison Cook-Sather, who provided a great model of discussion leadership and wonderful nuggets of advice (start small, involve a colleague in your plans, etc…).  Looking at her list of publications also reminded me that the world of pedagogy publication is diverse and exciting (nudge, nudge to self!)


2 thoughts on “Doubts and Beliefs

  1. Thanks for posting this Jan! I am very excited about the many thoughts generated at this workshop and am also looking forward to trying out some of the approaches we learned about and used, like the “Doubts and Beliefs” worksheets.

  2. Pingback: “Mapping” Exercise: a first-hand account | teaching matters

experiments, opinions, and dialogues... join in the fun!