Teaching Consultant Colleagues

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By Gerry Hess from Gonzaga University School of Law

One mark of a healthy teaching culture is frequent, informal consultation and discussion about teaching and learning among faculty colleagues. We can help one another with the challenge of being more effective teachers through brainstorming, listening, disclosure, perspective, and sharing success.

Brainstorming. Thoughtful teachers encounter pedagogical challenges, big and small, such as teaching a controversial topic, dealing with a problematic student, using active learning, effectively employing technology in the classroom, and finding ways to provide formative feedback in large classes. A five minute brainstorming session with a colleague can help us generate new approaches to instructional challenges.

Listening. Sometimes, we need to talk about our teaching struggles. The process of talking with another person about our difficulties can help us move forward. In those situations, our colleagues can help us simply by being sympathetic listeners. Not offering advice, not troubleshooting, not deconstructing – just giving us their full attention.

Disclosure. At times, we need to know that we are not alone in facing hard issues in our teaching. After encountering difficulties in the classroom, it is helpful to hear from colleagues who have faced similar challenges. Even if colleagues do not have solutions to offer, their disclosure of their “bad days” can help us feel less isolated.

Perspective. Colleagues can help us see our teaching from a different perspective. For example, our fellow teachers can offer alternative explanations for students’ behavior or the nature of the environment in our classrooms. Colleagues are especially helpful in providing a different perspective on our student evaluations.

Sharing Success. Many of us rarely talk with colleagues about our good days in the classroom. This is a shame. Teaching and learning success should be celebrated. We should revel in one another’s pedagogical victories and create a positive buzz about teaching in the law school.

Institute for Law Teaching and Learning