Initial Publication Date: October 8, 2007

Dilemma - Sermon of the rocks

(Note: this dilemma can be approached as written, that is from the perspective of the faculty member dealing with the situation below, or you can put yourself in the position of a developer working with this faculty member.)

Professor Jones has taught in the geology department for 30 years. His notions of teaching and learning can be summarized in the saying, "I'm here to teach, and students are here to learn." His approach to teaching involves lecturing from the textbook that he authored. Lectures, for Dr. Jones, are not unlike a Sunday sermon. He talks and some students listen. Others sleep, read newspapers, and surf the Web. Student evaluation of his classes and teaching effectiveness are routinely low. The student evaluation results reveal that Dr. Jones presents only one side of seemingly controversial issues and discourages students from asking questions and presenting alternative perspectives during class. Further, he does not make himself available outside of class to speak with students about their concerns.

As a tenured professor, student evaluations have been of little concern to Dr. Jones until recently. His university's faculty council voted to initiate mandatory peer observations of all faculty members with low student evaluations and implementation of a professional development plan. Professor Jones has been assigned a peer mentor, Dr. Lisa Smith from the Department of Language and Literacy. After observing three lectures delivered by Dr. Jones over a period of two weeks, Dr. Smith meets with Dr. Jones to develop a professional development plan to help Dr. Jones improve his lectures and interactions with students. What might be addressed in the professional development plan? If you were Dr. Smith, what strategies would you use in your mentoring of Dr. Jones?

Note: This dilemma was written by Claudia Khourey-Bowers & Tom Koballa at the SERC Affective Domain workshop in February 2007 and modified for the POD workshop.

Proposed Solution to this Dilemma

Written at the POD workshop

  • Stealth approach to confronting the efficacy of his teaching (he is not coming willingly to us)
  • We'll deliberately focus our attention on the class dynamics-not a blame game.
Video tape the class as it is currently taught.
Ask to consider:
  • What are you doing to promote learning?
  • What are the learners doing?
  • What are they learning? How do you know?
Anticipating the difficulty of answering those:
  • We want to honor his classical style.
  • Appeal with a socratic method updated
  • Define: What are his learning objectives?
  • Minute papers
  • Think/Pair/Share
  • Making their thinking visible (above and beyond what he thinks)
Time dilemma: use his textbook to extend learning beyond the 4 walls.