Interrogating Your Teaching...try it on.
A few years ago I was asked by our Provost at the time and our Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning to read a book called Taking College Teaching Seriously - Pedagogy Matters!: Fostering Student Success Through Faculty-Centered Practice Improvement (2015). It was a great read about the criticality of using evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs) in teaching. The book detailed a large-scale experiment enabling a group of faculty to participate in a virtual community of practice engaged in reflection on their intentional use of EBIPs in their classrooms. The faculty were trying out new EBIPs, reflecting on how it went, and then iterating their lessons based on peer and facilitator feedback. All the while a robust technological infrastructure was charting their progress using different EBIPs by tagging the practice (hashtag). The system built a digital footprint over time so the faculty could see how they were doing in these areas.
The progress of the faculty in the book was palatable and the net effect on student retention (an increase of 4-8%) was equally as impressive. They were a thriving group of faculty trying new things in their classroom, sharing with a trusted group of peers, and improving their teaching practice over-time. It was magical to read about. Frankly, it was magical to think about a group of faculty so interested in teaching practice improvement that they would take the time to experiment with new techniques and then engage in reflection to see if it worked or did not. For me, it was probably more magical because like many of us, I had no formal training in teaching. Evidence-based instructional practices was a new term to me and I was immediately drawn to the premise, and also to the idea of belonging to a community of practice.
What ensued was a small-scale pilot at my institution which was interesting and had some nice outcomes, though with the realization that we would need more resources to host a community of practice like this in the future. Later, it was just me and a small group of faculty keeping reflective journals on our teaching and challenging each other to try new things. Last year, it all came full-circle into an opportunity to become a Fellow with the Faculty Guild and do it for real, just like in the book (and perhaps even better).
Most recently it is even more magical being given the opportunity to facilitate a circle of faculty engaged in this work at the Faculty Guild, myself. Here I am guiding, learning, and growing…participating in #TheTeachingMovement with one of the best groups of thinkers, faculty, facilitators, and friends a girl could hope for. My challenge to you? No matter how you do it, take the time to try new things in your teaching and engage in reflective practice to honestly evaluate how things are going. The minute we stop interrogating our practice is the minute we should retire.