RES.21G-001 | Fall 2020 | Graduate

The User-friendly Classroom

Instructor Insights

Promoting Self-Evaluation

In this section, A. C. Kemp shares that the main purpose of the User-friendly videos is to help international teaching assistants (ITAs) develop self-evaluation skills. She describes each of the videos and illustrates how they promote ITAs’ development as educators.

Purpose of the Videos: Mastering Self-evaluation

"One of the main goals of the User-friendly Classroom video training series is to help ITAs learn to evaluate their own and others’ teaching."
— A. C. Kemp

Good teachers are constantly evolving their practice based on both new pedagogical research and on how well students respond to their course materials and teaching strategies. It’s important that international teaching assistants (ITAs) learn to view their pedagogical development as an ongoing process (as opposed to an endpoint), so that they will continue to improve and grow as teachers long after they participate in training.

One of the main goals of the User-friendly Classroom video training series is to help ITAs learn to evaluate their own and others’ teaching. The videos facilitate this learning by offering ITAs criteria for successful teaching and demonstrations of different teaching strategies. 

Video 1: “Expectations”

The first video in the series focuses on students’ expectations of their ITAs. I chose to spotlight this topic first because identifying what students want is the first step in building a user-friendly classroom. This video consists primarily of interviews with four undergraduate students about what ITA qualities are most effective, interspersed with footage of classroom interactions illustrating these points. The students articulate what they are looking for in productive recitations and the features they identify as the most helpful to their learning. Viewing “Expectations” helps ITAs learn the criteria they can use to evaluate others’ teaching and their own when it comes to meeting students’ expectations for user-friendly learning experiences.

Videos 2 and 3: “Phase Diagram” and “Lift”

ITAs apply these criteria to an evaluation of the teaching examples in the second and third videos: “Phase Diagram” and “Lift”. In “Phase Diagram”, a Chemistry ITA models clear organization, interactive teaching, and board work. In “Lift”, an Aeronautics and Astrophysics ITA uses humor and everyday examples to make the topic of lift easy to understand. This video includes questions from students and both planned and impromptu illustrations on the board.

Video 4: “The First Day”

The fourth video focuses on the “The First Day”. This video explains how to make a good first impression with step-by-step instructions. The rules are unpacked by four undergraduate students, who articulate specific words and actions ITAs can use on the first day to project approachability, knowledgeability and confidence. Experienced ITAs also offer advice. Video clips from the classroom illustrate the advice offered by students and ITAs.

As one example, undergraduates often say that confidence is an important quality for a teacher to have. However, it’s a difficult quality to acquire before one starts teaching. Therefore, most ITAs want to appear to be confident, even if they are not. Looking carefully at the ITAs in the demonstration videos, teachers-in-training can identify specific behaviors and words that signal confidence to their students. The teachers-in-training can then use those same behaviors to give the impression of confidence—until they have enough experience to actually feel confident. For many new teachers, it’s a kind of “fake it ‘til you make it” approach.

Video 5: “Introductions”

As with the previous videos, the advice given in “The First Day” is followed by a demonstration in the last video, “Introductions”. In this case, two ITAs briefly introduce themselves on the first day of class. Both ITAs are good models, but they take different approaches to greeting their classes and making their students feel welcome. These examples allow teachers-in-training to see there’s more than one way to make a good first impression.

Videos 6 and 7: “Ohm’s Law” and “Graph Theory”

In these two videos, the lessons of “Expectations” and “The First Day” are applied to online teaching. In “Ohm’s Law,” an ITA uses multiple representations of a concept to make the material and accessible to students and exploits the virtual medium to give a close-up demonstration. “Graph Theory” highlights strong organization and attention to student understanding. This ITA focuses on approachability and uses slides to further his explanations.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2020
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights