Missy Garvin

Evaluation of “Tools for Teaching” Workshop Series

I am pleased that I was given the opportunity to participate in the “Tools for Teaching”

Workshop Series facilitated by Dr. Matthew Callahan across the Spring 2015 semester. This proved to be a valuable experience offering practical suggestions for, as well as theoretical issues pertaining to, improving the teaching environment, working with diverse students, and grading effectiveness. I will further discuss some of the benefits of this workshop, as well as a suggestion for improving the series.

The first workshop topic related to “hot moments” in the classroom. When I first read about the workshop, it was hard for me to think of specific “hot moments” in my own classroom. Through this workshop, I was able to think of some of the issues that may have been uncomfortable for students that I may have missed previously, but I was also able to identify less obvious “cold moments.” Dr. Callahan provided clear recommendations for addressing these issues, as well as offering suggestions as group members raised specific concerns. It was beneficial to have a group discussion in which we were able to help each other think of strategies to effectively address situations which group members had experienced in their own classes. The environment was established for the workshop such that people felt comfortable brining up situations that were challenging in their classrooms.

The second workshop focused on effective grading. It was helpful to become aware of alternative strategies for grading effectively, but, personally, this was the topic in which I had the least interest at the start of the workshop. I would have preferred this to be a separate series. We did receive a copy of a book on the topic of effective grading, and this is proving a valuable resource.

The third topic was “teaching diverse students.” Dr. Callahan’s preparation for this topic was impressive! He spoke with students of diverse backgrounds across campus, including African-American, Latino, and Asian American students, as well as women in engineering and other male-dominated majors. It was so insightful to have (anonymous) direct quotes from our students about how they have felt on our campus and in our classrooms. A theoretical and empirically-based background was presented on diversity and we were able to discuss case studies of situations that happened across Sonoma State within the past year. All of this was very helpful and very interesting. However, we did not have time to complete all of the case studies or to elaborate sufficiently. This left me wanting more time for this topic.

Overall, my experience in this series was very positive. I feel better prepared to establish an appropriate class climate and to identify and address issues that do not fit in that climate. I also feel that I have better tools for ensuring that this climate is created for every student in my classroom. However, I would have preferred to have the grading effectiveness workshop as part of a separate series. This topic was useful, but it did not seem to fit the theme of class climate that the other topics addressed. Further, we did not have as much time as I wanted to talk about teaching diverse students and I would have preferred that this was given two sessions, rather than effective grading being given one.