Teaching observation

One of the assignments for the PgCert programme I’m undertaking at the moment is conducting mutual teaching observations with peers and reflecting from the process. Dr. Richard Talbot, Lecturer in Performance, came to observe my teaching at the CVG PM2 class yesterday (18 March), and I re-paid my courtesy by observing his avant-garde art class today (19 March) at the newly refurbished and re-opened People’s History Museum.

The lecture was on “leadership”. Richard’s appearance yesterday certainly had a visible influence on the class – students were much quieter (better behaved?). Richard immediately noticed that the classroom wasn’t ideal – students were separated by rows of computers. He also observed several distractions: late arrivals, students taking nap, playing games or going onto Facebook (usually I would ignore these behaviours).

After his observation on the first session, he’d like me to deliver a message to the class: He’d like to thank the students for letting him watch them and said he’s learned a lot from them. Afterwards, I told Richard “Students really appreciated your message”. He replied, “Well, that’s their territory and I should thank them for letting me in.”  What a gesture, Richard.

This morning, I went to People’s History Museum to meet Kurt Zarniko and the students (Yes – no Richard around! Click here and here to see why). Kurt dressed up in a funny way, but he was very friendly. Although we’ve never met, we went along together very well.

This was a game-based session with mini-lecture embedded in the activity. Students received instructions the night before. They were divided into groups, and needed to travel on foot from one museum to the other within 90 minutes (it’s a journey that usually can be done in 20 minutes). During their journey, they needed to take photos, engaged with the objects found, and perform in a urban environment, while wandering around and immersing themselves in the city. The data they collected will be uploaded onto Kurt’s webpage and Facebook, and used for creating a map around the area they strolled. The idea was inspired by Guy Debord and the situationists. Through recycling, recreating and repurposing materials, students were also performing a post-modern act.

Some groups were given the mini-lecture before they started the journey, and others were given that after they completed their journey. During the event, there were many contingencies to deal with. Kurt demonstrated excellent time management, coordination, communication, multi-tasking skills. He was patient, clam, kind and intelligent. Before leaving the People’s History Museum, he politely thanked the staff at the reception for letting him and the students use the venue for running the activity.

It was entertaining to watch Kurt in action. It was also fun to be involved (somehow I played a part in this – providing ideas e.g. taking photos, documenting how the whole activity went). So many ideas emerging from this activity were parallel to my research at hacker culture (different interpretations and performances of hacker culture). At the end of this, Kurt and I shared the same thought that we would like to do some fun action research project together.

For me, teaching observation helps me understand teaching practices in different disciplines and subject areas. But participating in Kurt’s (and/or Richard’s) teaching activity is more than that – through working together, we’re also developing further collaboration.

However, now the fun part has come to an end, and here comes the annoying part of completing forms.

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