Faculty Learn from Each Other During Open Classroom Week

November 12, 2010

During the recent Open Classroom Week, many GCC Faculty became students, attending classes taught by their colleagues.  Spanish instructors attended Anatomy & Physiology classes, Sociologists took Math classes, Criminology instructors took Sustainable Energy classes, and more.

Organized by GCC faculty Linda McCarthy and Norma Quesada, along with GCC Associate Dean of Learning Resources Lindy Gougeon, the Open Classroom Project was a professional development opportunity for faculty to visit classes and learn about teaching from their peers.  Faculty volunteered to open their classes for visitors and attended classes for their own learning, not to evaluate the instructor of the class they visited. Describing their goals for the Week, Norma said, “Teaching is the core of what we do as faculty at GCC.  We hoped this Project would bring faculty closer around the issue of teaching, giving us the opportunity to see what our colleagues do and start conversations about how we teach.”  From all reports, GCC’s first Open Classroom Week was a resounding success.

What can a Criminology instructor learn from a class about energy? “Lots!” according to Buz Eisenberg.  Buz, who attended Teresa Jones’ Sustainable Energy class, said, “What struck me most was seeing students who I found to be extremely articulate when talking in a small group clam up when it came to presenting their ideas to the whole class.  Spending time with those students made me think about how to help my students who have a hard time speaking to the whole class.  It’s not a new idea for me to realize quiet students can have a strong command of the content, but it was tremendous experiential learning to be a peer of students in that situation.”

Colleen Caffery teaches College Success and visited several classes, including Joanne Hayes’ Women and History class, Buz Eisenberg’s Civil Liberties class, and Anne Wiley’s Introduction to Psychology class. Colleen said, “In Buz and Joanne’s classes, students are responsible for presenting some of the content, an effective way for students to engage with the material.  My own classes are highly interactive, but I present most of the content.  I’m considering ways for my students to present more of the material.  During one class session, Anne Wiley used a number of different teaching modalities, from very participatory lectures to small group work to quiet solo time.  Anne’s use of quiet solo time in the midst of the sometimes lively, group work helped shift the energy of the class to one where students could reflect on the material being presented.  I will try using such solo time in my classes.”

Open Classroom Week had unexpected benefits for faculty and students. Students who had faculty visitors in their classes saw that even teachers have something to learn and briefly became peers with, or even more knowledgeable than, faculty members.  Now, seeing those faculty members on campus, they’ll remember sitting in class with them.  Faculty members experienced being a GCC student, feeling the kind of camaraderie that exists among students in a class.

Reflecting on the week, Linda McCarthy said, “GCC faculty really care about their students and their teaching.  Open Classroom Week is just one of the innovative professional development activities going on at GCC.”

For more information about the Open Classroom Project and GCC’s professional development activities, please contact Lindy Gougeon at gougeon@gcc.mass.edu.

By Mary McClintock, ’82