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Monday, March 02, 2015

Observing Veteran Teaching

First - thanks to prawfsblawg for the invitation. This site was instrumental in my learning of many ropes when I first began teaching. It helped me through "the market" and my first submission season. More importantly than that, it was a place to find people talking about all manner of things that interested me, including professional development as teachers.

That's where I'm going to start. At Loyola (Los Angeles), where I teach, I have the pleasure at least twice each semester of tenured faculty members visiting my class. Each time, they write up a report about what they saw, share it with me, and then we'll have a discussion about the class. Each time, I've received very helpful feedback. This is, I understand, a standard practice.

But another good way to learn about teaching is to watch other teachers teach. So that's what I'm doing this semester. I've asked around for permission to attend different classes, and every single colleague has said "whenever you want." By semester's end, I will have sat in on about 10 classes. The vast majority will be taught by tenured professors. They'll be lecture classes, clinical seminars, and doctrinal classes with an experiential bent. It's already been valuable to see veterans run a classroom discussion in ways that I have and ways that I haven't, in ways that I might, and in ways that I probably won't ever. It's also been illuminating to experience the classroom from the back of the room and see how things like writing on the board or pacing the front of the room (or not pacing) look and feel to the students, and to see how students react to different techniques.

So it occurred to me that in addition to being observed by tenured faculty each semester, new teachers (doctrinal, clinical, skills, fellows, VAPs, etc.) should probably observe tenured/veteran teachers each semester, at least once. But I don't know that I've ever heard anyone say that this happens, at least not as a requirement. Does anyone's school require such a thing? If so, how does it work?

Posted by Kevin Lapp on March 2, 2015 at 12:47 AM | Permalink


Whoops, clicked send too early. So this isn't newbies-watching-veterans, but supports the notion that classroom observation can benefit the observers as much as the observed.

Posted by: Matt Fraidin | Mar 5, 2015 11:13:03 PM

Participants in our LLM program at UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (Clinical Teaching, Social Justice and System Change) serve as teaching fellows in our clinics. As part of their learning process, they observe each other teaching clinical seminars and in supervision meetings with students. Observer and observed debrief afterwards, and the observer then shares with everyone else in the program a memo about what s/he saw and learned. Finally, the memos form the starting point for a whole-group (six LLM candidates and me) debrief and analysis.

Posted by: Matt Fraidin | Mar 5, 2015 11:09:30 PM

I once thought about doing something similar. I really hope you post on what you learn from the experience. I think it could be valuable to lot of folks, including me!

Posted by: Chris Lund | Mar 2, 2015 9:04:35 AM

Well speak of the devil. I'm getting observed today, and last week I sat in on the department head's class.

I think what's much more helpful is observing a series of 3-4 consecutive classes. Perhaps your mileage will vary, but I've found putting together a single day's lesson play not that difficult. What's challenging is connecting that lesson to the previous lesson while also setting up the next lesson. Part of our training was observing another professor for an entire semester, and that was incredibly helpful. Observing a single class out of context, not so sure there.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Mar 2, 2015 8:09:37 AM

Thank you for sharing .

Posted by: HaroldSkovronsky | Mar 2, 2015 7:41:22 AM

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