Thursday, August 2, 2012

first baby steps in teaching

As I forecasted in the last post, my teaching kept me quite busy during the last weeks. It's the first class I'm teaching at all. I did a lot of lab course supervision for students from various disciplines during my undergrad and PhD time, but this is my really first serious class. I don't know how this is handled at other universities, but I just got pushed into the cold water. I got the old slides of my supervisor and the PostDoc, who gave the course last year. But that was about it. And slides, which mostly show graphs copied from various publications without any bullet points, are not sooooo helpful. So, I'm learning how to swim right now within a topic I haven't fully mastered myself. 
The first lecture was just awkward. I have never seen how a lecture within my school is "usually given", I don't know much about the curriculum and what the students are supposed to know. They are not all directly connected to our School. Some are enrolled in different studies and can do my course as an optional one.
 So, I gave a classic teacher-centered class, mostly me talking, mostly rushing too fast over important topics and I looked at quite a few confused faces at the end of it. I find it very hard to balance between explaining stuff on a too basic level and overwhelming them because I assume to much pre-knowledge. In the first class I definitely took too much knowledge for granted.
In the next classes I tried to implement more interaction with the students, asked more questions, let them use the stuff I talked about right away. That worked a bit better and there were a few bulbs lightening up once in a while. It still wasn't a totally amazing class, but at least I didn't drown half way through the course.
And now I just recognized how much I remind myself of all these young teachers I had in High School, who were fresh out of university, trying to test all the stuff they have learned during the last years on their students. Sometimes I liked that and sometimes I felt like a little lab rat with electrodes connected all over.
But its exactly what I'm doing right now for my class: Digging out everything I have ever heard of "engaging" teaching practices and test them out. And it's actually fun. I don't know how much for the students (I'll see in the evaluation, I guess), but at least for me. Next time I'll bring paper, cord and modeling clay. And then we'll see if this is a good learning experience or if my students feel relegated to pre-school.

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