Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Keeping a teaching journal

A couple of weeks ago, I met with one of my mentors to deconstruct some of the teaching-related things in my third year review letter. I'll admit that I was dreading the conversation, but I have to say it went very, very well. This mentor seems really fired up about helping me address the teaching weaknesses that came up at review time so that I can get tenure here. And, he had a lot of really great suggestions for *both* of us to work on together.

One of the suggestions that intrigued me the most and that I'm most interested in trying out is keeping a teaching journal. Has anyone out there tried this? If so, what format did you use, and how useful did you find it? I'm really curious to hear about others' experiences with it.



luolin said...

I have tried to keep a teaching journal--I think it was recommended in grad school--but it is sporadic. I tend to only write it as a recap to the semester, or when I am having a problem I want to think through. It works more as a place to vent than as the kind of ongoing musing over philosophy and practice for which it was suggested.

It seems to me that a lot of what you write in this blog is similar to a teaching journal.

skookumchick said...

Yes, I kept a teaching journal when I taught a course last fall. After every class I wrote down how I felt it went - good stuff and bad stuff. I kept it for two reasons: 1) in order to develop a teaching portfolio to use for applying for faculty jobs, and 2) to try and improve my teaching when it "didn't really count," so I set out little teaching experiments and used the journal to chronicle how I felt they went.

You should probably frame the journal around what its purpose is - if it is for tenure, use it to gather evidence of your effective teaching (and not so much what didn't work). If it is for self-improvement, you can be more critical of yourself, or more vent-y. (You can probably combine the two, but make sure you write down the good stuff then too...) A friend pointed me to this site, the Delta Program, that has a guidebook on developing a teaching portfolio which you might find helpful. What they argue is critical is, in your teaching statement (whether for a job or for tenure), you give specific examples of how you are effective, or that demonstrate specific examples of your teaching philosophy. Collect student work (with their permission) and design your own teaching evaluations that better assess how much students have learned rather than just how much they like you (or not).

BTW, there's a large literature about student evaluations of faculty, and *surprise* there seems to be a gender bias along certain dimensions. Just FYI. :-(

Good luck...

Mel said...

I kept a teaching journal early on, and occasionally I still do when I'm teaching a new kind of course or area. For me the key is consistency -- to block out 15 mins after every class period to jot down a few notes about what we did, what worked, what my impressions of particular students were -- the journal is very valuable later in teh term to look back and see how students have changed, how your feelings or approaches have changed. I recommend the practice.

Jane said...

Thanks for the advice, everyone! This journal is definitely more for me than for tenure, although one of my hopes is that I can look back on it when putting together my teaching statement for my tenure file.

Mel, I hadn't thought about using it for impressions of students too, but I can see how that would be very valuable and useful--thanks for the idea!

Skookumchick, thanks for the link to the Delta program--I'll check that out. (And yes, I'm familiar w/ all the literature on gender bias...maddeningly, though, my department keeps insisting that there's no such thing as gender bias in evaluations and that there have been "no conclusive studies to show it". Ack! Can you say "uphill battle"?)

Luolin, I did have to choke back a snicker when my mentor suggested the idea to me, because he phrased it as "Have you ever considered keeping a journal?" If he only knew! :)

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