Individual Consultations about Teaching and Learning
Faculty and staff members with teaching responsibilities, department chairs, and division chairs, are welcomed to contact Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens to schedule an individual consultation about any teaching and learning topics or about select departmental/divisional needs, particularly as these involve mentoring and faculty development, curriculum development, and other teaching-related issues.
Consultations are available on a wide range of topics related to teaching, learning, professional development, and academic leadership. Such consultations have focused on:
- meeting learners where they are
- scaffolding: offering challenge with support
- exploring new teaching strategies or pedagogies
- encountering the research on student learning
- assessing student learning formatively in the classroom
- giving feedback on student work
- grading effectively and efficiently
- using student evaluation feedback as a springboard for making changes
- redesigning a course
- getting feedback on a syllabus or assignment design
- using active learning strategies
- designing effective group work
- starting a scholarship of teaching and learning inquiry
- preparing teaching materials for promotion and tenure or for post-tenure review
Departmental or divisional leadership / mentoring and supervision
- serving as a new chair
- conducting classroom observations and performance consultation
- supporting and mentoring faculty on different types of contracts (adjunct, limited term appointments, postdoc fellows, tenure-track, tenured faculty)
- working with pre-tenure faculty members and their peer review teams
- engaging in and leading curriculum redesign
- building relationships and managing conflict
Classroom Observations and Feedback
Instructors may request a confidential classroom observation if they are interested in formative feedback and about their practice from an experienced and supportive observer. Contact Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Many faculty members find it useful to ask students for feedback about a course at midterm. The CTL regularly sends a pre-midterm reminder with sample questionnaires, and it also offers an in-class focus group discussion format called the Midterm Assessment of Teaching that many faculty have found powerful for helping them connect with their students’ learning experiences midway through a course.
Sample Midterm Feedback Forms
Sample midterm evaluations (UC Berkeley)
Sample of midterm assessment questionnaires (St. Olaf)
Soliciting and utilizing mid-semester feedback (Vanderbilt)
The Midterm Assessment of Teaching represents just one approach that can provide valuable information and can help faculty and students target adjustments midway through a course. Besides providing useful feedback, the intervention signals to students that their perspectives matter and also communicates that they play a critical role in making choices and commitments to their own learning.
Faculty members contact Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens (email@example.com) and either she or another trained faculty/staff member will come to the beginning of a class period around midterm. During a 30-minute segment of the class, the consultant will gather students’ written comments and focus group feedback in response to questions about their learning in the course:
- What about this course helps you learn?
- What about this course hinders your learning?
- What suggestions do you have to improve this course so that it better supports learning?
- What are you doing to help yourself learn in this course?
- What are you doing that prevents or hinders your learning in this course?
- What could you do to improve your learning in this course?
Typed anonymous results from written comments and focus group feedback provide a point of departure for considering what to adjust in a course or what to communicate to students about instructional choices and elements that can’t be changed. In a follow up conversation, the consultant provides a sounding board or guidance as the faculty member considers what might represent the best responses to feedback.
Faculty Feedback about the Midterm Assessment of Teaching Process
Instructors who used the midterm assessment of teaching process in 2018-2019 provided anonymous feedback about their experiences. The process led participants to adjust their courses in response to student feedback in ways that improved students’ experiences, and, as each time the program is assessed, participants commented on the greater value they took from it than from end-of-term IEQs along, in part because there was still time to make adjustments, in part because the feedback was more constructive and specific. 100% of those surveyed in 2018-2019 said they were “extremely likely” (a “5” on a 5-point scale) to recommend the service to colleagues. See specific responses that provide insights into instructors’ takeaways.
Did the midterm assessment feedback and follow-up consultation help you make positive or constructive changes in the course during the second half of the semester? (yes, no, unsure) If so, please briefly describe any changes or interventions you tried and what you found.
In the second half of the term, I removed some of the activity categories that students found frustrating, and they appreciated this gesture of effort on my part to listen to their feedback. Additionally, I replaced or revised many of the problematic activities when teaching the course again this term. For instance, students found pre-packaged Google Earth files difficult to navigate. Rather than giving them the files all in one large folder for the term, I instead provided them each session with only the files/locations they needed to do the activity. I also renamed placemarks to be clearer and re-designed a few of the Google Earth activities completely. Based on the decrease in panicked emails I received before these labs were due compared to last term, I think the new system is working better for the students. –Faculty feedback, 2018-2019
I have restructured my classroom so that students of differing mathematical backgrounds work together in groups to help each other. The students previously sat where they liked, so the “math-phobics” sat together and separate from the more experienced students, which enforced the idea that the less experienced students felt that they do not belong. This attitude was one of the main issues in the course, and I was able to fix it. –Faculty feedback, 2018-2019
What was most positive about the midterm assessment experience overall?
Seeing similarities and differences in student experience. The transparency of student response was helpful when coming from a facilitator other than myself. Getting more than one type of evaluation/feedback is very helpful overall. This feedback helps to compliment the IEQ’s which happen at the end of the semester. –Faculty feedback, 2018-2019
Overall, it was great to find out that my students think well of me and the class in general. I felt like this was true, but since I’m new to the classroom, it was very useful to have that external validation. While I know that being liked is not the end goal of teaching, I was still very glad to hear that I had developed a rapport with the students. Based on this rapport, I think students have been willing to put in more effort on tricky labs than they maybe otherwise would’ve (though this is a hard claim to assess quantitatively!). –Faculty feedback, 2018-2019
Students get a chance to get their voices heard and the instructor can make timely adjustments to the course and instruction. It’s more useful than semester-end IEQs. –Faculty feedback, 2018-2019
How would you describe this experience to a colleague?
I think I would highly recommend the service to someone who is new to teaching or who is teaching a given class for the first time. I think it’s easy to be blind to certain aspects of what’s working or isn’t working, especially when those issues are on a homework assignment. Students may struggle with practical aspects of understanding questions or navigating through files, and this struggle doesn’t always come through when the assignment being graded. Having a neutral environment for them to express their frustration with these aspects was very beneficial. I will definitely utilize this program again in the future. –Faculty feedback, 2018-2019
It was extremely effective to have someone with the background and expertise to be able to hold up a mirror to my teaching so that I can admit issues that I need to resolve as I get better at teaching. –Faculty feedback, 2018-2019
Workshops and Facilitation for Departments, Divisions, and other groups
The CTL director can provide tailored workshops or facilitated sessions for departments or divisions on request. Past focuses for such workshops / sessions have included:
- Helping students read difficult texts / motivating students to do the reading
- Engaging in curriculum revision . . . . when there’s conflict in the room
- Conducting classroom observations of teaching and providing meaningful feedback
- and more
For more information, contact Leslie Ortquist-Ahrens (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Faculty Development through the CTL supports instructors—generally in community with one another—as they work to become ever more informed, creative, critical, and equity-minded teachers and professionals.