The Teaching Circle Experience

The Teaching Circle Experience, by Susannah K. Brown, Ph.D.

As a new adjunct faculty member at MCTC, I started the Fall 2012 semester with a lot of excitement about the community.  I couldn’t wait to greet my students and engage them in learning new material.  I also wanted to learn as much about campus resources and services as possible so I could support my students.  In the first couple weeks of the semester, I was so focused on classroom preparations that I rarely came out of my office.  I felt like I was being an effective teacher, but not the most effective community member.  How could I get to know the campus better?

A lot of new faculty have competing demands on their time and struggle to find balance.  Colleagues can help by offering advice and assisting the development of a sense-of-community within departments.  Among several suggestions for helping new faculty get acclimated, Mary Sorcinelli of the University of Massachusetts recommends finding mentors and actively inviting participation in the campus community http://www.wfu.edu/tlc/pdfs/TLC%20Forum.pdf.  MCTC’s Center for Teaching and Learning offers an opportunity to both learn from other instructors and become more involved in the campus through Teaching Circles.

Teaching Circles offer the opportunity to get to know other faculty, gain professional development, and contribute to the MCTC community.  The commitment is just ten hours a semester. For Fall 2012, the Center for Teaching and Learning offered Teaching Circles in the topic areas of iPads in the Classroom and Classroom Management; I joined the Classroom Management Teaching Circle.  At our initial meeting we discussed our understanding of what classroom management was, determined an agreeable meeting schedule, and outlined the topics we were interested in exploring together.  We were able to shape the experience to meet the needs of the instructors in our group.

In the following weeks our Circle met to expand our understanding of Classroom Management.  Some weeks we would each research information about a topic and bring our results to the meeting for discussion.  Other weeks we had visitors from different areas of campus to share their knowledge and resources.  We even had the opportunity to observe each other teaching in the classroom to gain new perspectives on how different faculty manage their classrooms.  Throughout the process we built relationships with faculty from across the college, increased our understanding of MCTC’s wealth of resources, and gained great experience to improve our work with students.

Participating in a Teaching Circle is well worth the commitment.  At first, I was concerned that weekly meetings with outside research would be overwhelming.  The other faculty in my Circle were supportive, and I soon found that making the time to be an active participant wasn’t as difficult as I had first thought.  My Teaching Circle experience has made me feel more confident as an instructor and more included as a member of the MCTC community.   Teaching Circles are offered each semester on a variety of topics.  Contact Cheryl Neudauer (cheryl.neudauer@minneapolis.edu; 612-659-6448; Office: S2560) or jenny sippel (jennifer.sippel@minneapolis.edu; 612-659-6434; Office: L1603) to suggest a Teaching Circle topic or to learn more about how to get involved.

Resource: Sorcinelli, M. D. (2003). The Top Ten Things New Faculty Would Like to Hear from Colleagues.  National Teaching & Learning Forum, 13(3).

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