CHADRON – Reflections about teaching and learning posted in Chadron State College’s Route 6x6 Challenge have provided thought-provoking moments of insight for the faculty participating in the blog.
The challenge, inspired by a similar effort at Yavapai College in Arizona, was createdby Elizabeth Ledbetter with the Teaching and Learning Center after she saw a presentation by Todd Conaway at the 2017 Quality Matters Connect Conference. Ledbetter, who continues to facilitate the blog, brought the idea to CSC, initiated conversations about it with faculty, and found there was interest in a virtual road trip about teaching and learning.
Conaway said the Yavapai faculty who participated in the writing challenge learned from their own reflections and gained meaningful insights. He touts the value of locally relevant content over other methods of learning about teaching practices.
Topics of the CSC faculty posts include issues related to grading, student evaluations, balancing work responsibilities, providing feedback to students, assessment, teaching styles and trends, academic rigor and integrity, student behavior, roles and expectations of teachers and students, assignment design, and course development.
Serendipity has also been part of the mix.
When Rich Kenney, associate professor, read “To Give Pause,” by Dr. Mary Clai Jones, assistant professor, about the importance of strategic silence in the classroom,he was struck by the coincidence that he and his students in a group counseling course were considering the same issue.
“Silence can often be a positive form of communication for a client. Clients, like students, need time to think. They need our supportive silence. What I was trying to teach my students about pauses, Mary Clai had so eloquently conveyed in her post,” Kenney said.
Another blog post that rang true with Kenney was “An Exhortation for Empathy” by Dr. Nathaniel Gallegos, associate professor, describing how his empathy increased for students dealing with the death of a loved one after he faced a similar loss.
“When Nathaniel’s piece was published, I recall how it especially resonated with me as I, too, was working with a student who was devastated by the death of a close relative,” Kenney said.
Bruce Hoem, professor, said when he reads the posts, he feels like a student again.
“We have some very gifted faculty providing the six by six articles, and I feel like I have to sort of run to keep up with what they have to share,” Hoem said.
Hoem said community building among the faculty is one of the main benefits of the Route 6x6 Challenge.
“I see the six by six articles as a chance to let others know what makes me tick in the classroom,” Hoem said. “Some of the articles I’ve read have made me re-examine the way I teach and why I do it the way I do.”
Hoem, in his blog post “Taking it to the Streets,” explains what he likes about teaching Services to Elderly and Differently Abled (SW 332) at Crest View Care Center.
“I offer a comment here or there. Mostly I just watch the students learn without me. It’s the best teaching I have ever done,” Hoem said.
Mary Clai Jones has also posted about the importance of asking students questions, defining terms, listening, and feedback.
“The benefit of the blog is reflecting on what happens in the classroom. Sharing what we are learning about the discovery process helps us feel less alone,” she said. “Some posts are about being in the trenches and dealing with messy situations while other aphorisms are spiritually lofty. The six by six reminds me why I’m in this profession.”
Markus Jones, assistant professor, pondered the question whether to forge ahead with lesson plans or yield to an organic discussion that may be more valuable in “The Pink Cowboy Hat.”
Markus Jones said when he read one of Hoem’s posts, “Time Travel,” he recognized the description of a teaching technique he uses, but didn’t know how to describe.
“You find what you connect to in others’ posts. Sharing and curating our experiences has had a surprising beauty,” Markus Jones said.
Gallegos said the self-reflection required to write the posts helps increase his awareness of ways to improve.
“It’s a good idea. It makes us better professionals, more humble practitioners, and open to feedback,” Gallegos said. “I enjoy the poetry in the posts and seeing what is going on in other classrooms.”
Kenney said he would like to see the Route 6x6 Challenge community grow.
“The blogs are rich sources of ideas. With more contributors, the larger that teaching and learning cache becomes. It’s in the sharing of ideas that we become more adept in the field of teaching. That’s what this Route Six by Six Challenge is all about,” Kenney said.
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