Triads – More Than Just a Chinese Organized Crime Syndicate
By Kyle Webb
The Teaching Excellence Committee will again be organizing Teaching Triads this winter term, and we hope that many of you will consider participating. You will receive more information about getting involved later this term. Until then, here is a preview of the Teaching Triads:
Teaching Triads are groups of three faculty (though it could just as well be two or four) who observe each other’s teaching throughout the term, provide each other feedback, and engage in discussions about teaching. The Teaching Triads and PROT processes are similar, but differ in two important ways.
First, the triads are intended to be much less formal and more flexible. You can observe as many or as few classes as you want or are able. Feedback can be given through informal discussion – no need to write a letter. You are also free to restrict the focus of the observations/feedback as much as you want. For example, one group may want to focus solely on best practices for implementing a flipped classroom, another may want to focus on effective implementation of in-class activities, while a third may choose to not have a specific focus area.
Second, the goal of this process is solely the improvement of our teaching, not a review of our performance to be used as part of the promotion process. That means we should feel free to give honest and thorough feedback and suggestions, without worrying that it will come across as too negative in a review letter. This is all about helping each other become better at our jobs.
This year’s Teaching Triads will run during the winter term. There will be a kickoff meeting at the beginning of the term for everyone taking part; observations/discussions/feedback will all happen within your triad group throughout the winter term on a schedule determined by your group; and there will be a wrap-up meeting for all participants at the end of the term.
All faculty – full-time and part-time – are encouraged to participate.
Observation of teaching can greatly benefit both the observer and the instructor being observed. As an observer, we put ourselves in the students’ position, allowing us to provide feedback from a perspective unavailable to the instructor.
Perhaps more importantly, observation benefits the observer. I have always enjoyed the observation component of the PROT process, for what I, as the observer, have been able to learn by watching others teach. As an observer, we are in a position to see what works and what does not work in the classroom. It is a great opportunity to pick up new ideas that we can incorporate into our own teaching. Or, occasionally, to see things that we want to avoid doing in our teaching. Usually, the things I see that I want to avoid are things that I, myself, am guilty of doing.
This is a good year for saying ‘no’ to any and all requests to take on extra activities, so why would you say ‘yes’ to Teaching Triads? Simply put, it is a high-ROI development opportunity. Your time commitment could be as little as a few hours over the course of the term, but the benefit to you and your triad group can be huge. Even picking up one new idea that you want to incorporate into your own teaching will justify the small time commitment.
Start thinking about getting a triad together, and keep your eye out for an email later this term with more details. Want to get involved, but don’t have a group to participate with? No problem. We will form groups of unattached faculty at the kick-off meeting next term.