As a sessional staff member you are not formally evaluated on your teaching. However, your teaching contributes to the overall student experience in any course and each course is formally evaluated at the end of the semester.
Feedback on your teaching will guide you gradually to improve your planning, delivery and confidence. You can work on improving your teaching by yourself, with peers, as well as with senior staff.
As a sessional teacher, you are making an important and valuable contribution to your students’ learning and the School. Evaluating your teaching will help you build links and relationships with other teachers and, as a result, provide opportunities for you to feel a part of the School’s teaching and learning community.
Below is a list of feedback methods and techniques. These are just suggestions and we recommend asking for support and guidance from other sessional colleagues, your Course Co-ordinator or the College of Science, Engineering and Health (SEH) Teaching and Learning Staff if you want more information or want to explore ways of implementing these ideas.
It can be difficult to look honestly at your teaching, but if you accept this as part of your lesson planning it will become easier to consider questions such as:
- Did I achieve the aims and objectives I set for this lesson? If not, why not?
- Did I struggle responding to some of the students questions and how will I follow this up?
- Was there a particular student or a small group of students I did not seem to engage with and why?
- What will I try to do differently next time I teach this class of students (or lesson)?
Arrange with either another sessional teacher or a small group to go through your lesson plans and watch each other teach two or three times during the semester. You can then come together and provide feedback in a supportive manner. This can only work when all participants agree on the criteria and that there is a professional approach. You may ask a more senior colleague to assist you in setting up this kind of peer assessment at the beginning of semester.
You will need your School to assist with this approach by asking if you can meet with a senior teacher in the School a number of times before, during and at the end of the semester. This can be done on a 1:1 basis or you may participate in a group to be mentored by one senior staff member. The dynamics of each mentoring relationship will be different, however, set up in an explicit and professional manner, mentoring is an effective way to improve teaching ability and confidence, as well as building networks with other teachers in the School.
A less formal version is where you ask your Course Coordinator if you can come and watch them teach a class and they then come and observe you. You may not feel confident in the beginning, but over the course of a few semesters of teaching and working with the same Course Coordinator this can be a very productive way of working.
The easiest way to do this is to ask a colleague to video your teaching. Then either alone, with other colleagues, or with an experienced teacher, watch your teaching session. This allows you to evaluate and reflect on your strengths, as well as areas you want to further develop. It can also be a wonderful digital record of how you have improved over time.
A teaching journal can be kept either for each class or over a semester. The idea is to record either electronically or in a book your ideas, feelings, struggles during the planning phase of your class, whilst teaching (if and when possible) and, most importantly, immediately at the end of a class. This can be kept private or shared. Documenting in dot points or drawings or scribble your challenges, successes and choices provides you with a tool of self-reflection.
If your School has a dedicated Teaching and Learning Advisor (TLA), you can approach them for teaching support.
'Teaching and Learning Days' are offered once or twice a year in most Schools in the College of SEH. These often involve a large component of future planning, but they often also contain workshops and provide opportunities for sharing tips about improving teaching. You may wish to ask your Course Coordinator about these days and attend to meet and become a part of your School learning community.