Meta Micro Teaching

I have been thinking about the meta question of how we were being taught during our first class, when we presented a micro teaching lesson to our peers.

It reminded me in a sense of a course I took during my Soci degree, a fourth-year course on small group dynamics. Little did we know initially, but we were the small group in question. During the first class period, the professor told us that we’d be videotaped, and our own conversations would provide the class material. We all signed informed consent documents. Then, during the second class period, the professor did…nothing. He sat there. For 75 minutes. We waited. He waited. Eventually–I don’t recall how–we began to “teach ourselves” small group dynamics. It ended up being a very fascinating and memorable course.

In the case of our micro-teaching activity, again, we were presented with something we (or at least I) hadn’t expected on the first day: an actual and immediate opportunity to demonstrate our own pedagogy.

Since then, we’ve talked through some of the reasons we felt our five-minute lesson may not have worked for our potential/fictional students. But what did it mean for teaching us about pedagogy?

  1. Teachers as much as students will choose familiar, comfortable strategies (just as in the Manarin reading).
  2. This is likely to look like lecture rather than meeting students where they are
  3. We struggle to break down “unconscious competence” with only a few minutes’ planning time: what is close reading? What are its component parts? What do we value most in our students’ learning?
  4. Teaching a lesson and seeing it taught in several different ways shows us that there are already several different strategies we hadn’t thought of.

So in terms of teaching the course, we were presented with an activity that would find its echo in several of our upcoming readings. While the activity superficially placed us in the role of teachers, it simultaneously put us in the role of students: we didn’t have control over the activity or how or when it would be presented; we were expected to demonstrate competence without much warning; and we were concerned with how we would be evaluated.

Especially important was the role of the time constraint, as most of us commented in the discussion afterwards. At first I thought twenty minutes would be more than ample for planning a five-minute lesson, but in fact, discovered that a shorter lesson is more difficult to plan than a longer lesson. Another reason to return to strategies that have proven effective before, such as lecturing! There seems so little time available that we get stressed and forget students’ needs in centering our own. (Remind anyone of about week 9 in the semester?)

So why, for the purposes of this course, do we front-load it with the mini-lesson activity? I think it does several things that our readings suggest we do for students:

  1. It acts as a pre-test or concept inventory that shows us our starting point as teachers. We can remember it as we learn new strategies. “What I should have done was…”
  2. In the discussion afterwards, we talked about what concerns or worries we had when presenting the lesson–which we begin to think about more deeply when we talk about what we value, and what we hope students will take away.
  3. We learn what misconceptions we have about teaching, such as “if I lecture well I will reach them! If I lecture longer I will reach them!” (driven by the time constraint.)
  4. When we read case studies, we don’t get too arrogant, because we all know we have this very awkward lesson in our past!

This has been your moment of meta.


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One Response to Meta Micro Teaching

  1. fhalpern says:

    What a fascinating post, Heather. I want to add just one more meta observation: part of the purpose was also to set the stage for the official micro-teaching later in the term. We wanted you to have something to think back about and play off of.


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