Reflecting on Teaching My First Instructional Classes

After organizing and completing my lesson plans, it was time to take my lesson to the classroom! The lesson covered how to evaluate and interpret online content with rhetorical analysis. Students would be assessing blogs for their next assignment and considering how these rhetorical elements influenced the purpose of the blog. However, at the last minute I had to quickly alter my approach, structure, and timing as the class instructor wanted to give students time to find an appropriate blog post. Originally I was going to break each row into six groups and have them individually assess blogs; however, when we actually started reviewing blogs to include, the professor pointed out important information regarding the selection of blogs. Together we decided that this information was crucial for students to understand and re-scheduled time to allow for the instructor to go over criteria for selecting an appropriate blog for the assignment. This did not call for much re-organization except limiting time on the worksheet. I also think this really allowed students time to ask the professor questions and better understand why certain blogs were appropriate for the assignment and others were not.

 

Overall, the classes went really well. I timed everything out to cover all the information I wanted to and felt the classes were treating the worksheet as a foundational piece for their assignment. The first class was much more responsive than the second class in terms of discussion. The questions I received were ones I expected and felt I could adequately explain. Afterwards, the class instructor encouraged me to explain the first question on the worksheet a little more and offer examples on how to find the information. The first question centered around the review and publishing process for the website. Most students were getting stumped at this first question and were either lingering on solving it during the allotted time or getting discouraged by how difficult it was. I did disclose that the first question was perhaps the hardest one, but I altered my approach during the second class by pulling up an example on Wired and showing the students the different tabs, links, contact info, and areas to find this specific publishing information. I also briefly talked about the type of language they would want to be looking for. I could not adequately judge how effective this altered approach was but felt going over locating the publishing information was beneficial to the class. When we went over the worksheet as a class I further explained the important difference between staff writers and freelance writers, blind review, double-blind review, and peer-review. Although I had briefly mentioned these aspects in the previous class, I felt discussing the aspects of the publishing process more in-depth to the second class would more adequately give students an idea of the types of things that define the publishing process.

 

The second class was much less responsive and I felt I did most of the talking. Afterwards, the class instructor encouraged me not to be scared of silence when I asked a question and the class did not respond. During this class I would ask questions and get no responses, which caused me to immediately answer my own question. I thought this advice was extremely useful because I was measuring the success of the class by how much discussion was happening. Discussion is important but allowing space for students to think and feel semi-pressured into answering questions would have created a more engaging classroom. Although the class instructor found the second class to have gone better, I personally found the first class to have gone better. I believe this was in part to the students participating in discussion throughout the class. The second class took a much shorter time to locate appropriate blogs for their assignment, while the first class took a longer time. This appeared to influence the professor’s outlook on the success of the classes. There was also much more of a sports-focus on the blogs that students chose in the second class as many of them were involved in collegiate sports or were interested in sports. I helped a few students locate publishing information on sports websites and when we discussed the worksheet as a class I asked these students to explain the sports blogs’ publishing process to me as I was unfamiliar with that world. Afterwards, Sara and I discussed how this could have potentially had a negative effect on the class. While I saw this prompt as a chance to engage students in discussing information they found that I did not know about, she mentioned that me acknowledging I was not interested in sports could have had a negative effect. I found this really interesting as I had not considered looking at comments like this in any “critical” way in shaping students perception of the information I was teaching. This comment made me re-focus the type of audience I was speaking to and reminded me to be more critical when making comments towards the class.

 

I certainly enjoyed teaching my first set of classes and am going to take the elements previously discussed into consideration when constructing my lesson plans for the next class I teach. I have an idea of what to expect from the class in terms of participation, discussion, and audience now. When I see these classes next I am hoping that I can hear about how their assignments went and what they found out.

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