University Teaching: Instant Wins

One of the most enjoyable things I did in this last week of term was my department’s teaching induction session for graduate students. I was leading a session on undergraduate essay feedback, and we had a great chat about all sorts of different approaches and mechanisms, the difference between formative and summative commentary, between coaching and judging, and so on. One of the big principles that we always come back to in sessions like this is that there’s rarely a single right way to do things, and that a lot of the fun in teaching is in learning what suits you and your students. And I’m sure that this is right, but I know from my own experience that knowing that there are lots of different ways to get teaching right doesn’t take away the anxiety of simply getting it wrong, especially right at the beginning. What if I look stupid? What if I get something wrong? And, above all: What if they just won’t talk? This is where some basic rules can come in handy, some reliable foundations and simple fixes on which to build over time all our different, personal, creative, and idiosyncratic teaching strategies. Continue reading