Teaching Triangles 2018 – Overview Handout
Modified by Kathy Graff Low, Bates College, 2012 & Kirk Read and Darby Ray, 2016
From Kamilla Bahbahani, Millsaps College, 2005 and
Anne Wessely, St. Louis Community College, St. Louis, MO, 2002
What are Teaching Triangles?
The Teaching Triangles Project improves teaching and builds community through a structured, non-evaluative process of classroom observation and shared reflection.
A Teaching Triangle consists of three faculty participants (ideally from different disciplines) who will:
- Observe one class taught by each Triangle Partner (a total of 2 observations)
- Reflect on the class observation experience
- Share reflections with Triangle Partners during a group meet-up (with refreshments)
- Share triangle observations with project participants as a whole
Your Teaching Triangles experience offers you the opportunity to improve your own teaching by observing your Triangle Partners in an actual classroom situation.
By participating in the Teaching Triangles Project you will have an opportunity to:
- Observe, analyze, and celebrate good teaching
- Increase your appreciation for the work of colleagues as you come to understand a range of modalities and challenges
- Experience the joy and confusion of being a student
- Formulate a plan for enhancing your own teaching based on your observations and reflections and the shared reflections of your Triangle Partners
Cornerstones for Participants
Teaching Triangles is unique in offering a classroom visitation process free from evaluation.
The Cornerstones of Teaching Triangles are those critical attitudes and behaviors that, when exhibited by all participants, create a safe, mutually-supportive, energizing environment for sharing the joys and challenges of teaching.
|A. Reciprocity and Shared Responsibility||C. Appreciation|
|B. Self Referential Reflection||D. Mutual Respect|
- Reciprocity and Shared Responsibility
Through the mutual exchange of visits with our Teaching Triangles partners, we assume the dual roles of the observer and the observed, teacher and student. We simultaneously experience and thus share the opportunities and risks of inviting others into our classrooms.
As Teaching Triangles participants we jointly assume the tasks of arranging classroom visits and exchanging course information. By fully participating in the organization and administration of the Triangle, we minimize the effort that must be expended by any single participant. We maintain a climate of collegiality. This structure facilitates a team effort and a team result.
- Self-Referential Reflection
The Triangle experience is an opportunity to consider what we can learn about our own teaching from the observation experience. By keeping observations self-focused, we avoid any hint of evaluation or judgment that could contribute to a climate of defensiveness and suspicion.
The group meet-up is an opportunity to identify and celebrate the behaviors and practices that create a productive environment for learning. Expressing observations in a positive way offers us a goal to be pursued and a source of energy for achieving that goal. The meet-up is also a time to enjoy colleagues from other departments/programs.
- Mutual Respect
We enter our Triangle classroom with an attitude of empathy and respect for both the instructor and the students, recognizing that different methods and techniques are required in different disciplines and classroom situations.
There are sample observation and reflection forms available if you would like to use them to record and organize your notes for the Triangle session. Tip: Make a Teaching Triangles folder to collect the materials you receive during your class visits. They will be a handy reference when preparing your reflections for the group meet-up.
“Triangulation” (or group meet-up)
After completing the classroom visits, group members will get together to reflect on what you learned about teaching and learning from the visitations. (Bring your notes from your class visits.) Each Triangle may get reimbursed from the Dean of Faculty’s office for up to $60.00 of refreshments, which is enough to grab lunch or modest dinner off campus. (If you’re in a Teaching Square – four people – you get up to $80.00.)
Remember: Your Teaching Triangles experience offers you the opportunity to improve your own teaching by reflecting on the strengths and diverse approaches of your colleagues. It is NOT an invitation to offer feedback to improve your partners’ teaching. During the group meet-up, you will share what you learned about your own teaching or about the student experience — ideas for innovation or improvement you want to consider, insights into the student experience, etc.
We have found these questions useful during the group meet-up:
- About Teaching Triangles
- What are some specific things you liked about the project?
- What are some suggestions for improving the project?
- How did your participation in Teaching Triangles give you a greater appreciation of:
- Our students?
- Our colleagues?
- Bates College?
- The teaching profession?
- What did you observe that you might use to make your own teaching more effective?
- How did the things you observe affect your thinking about your own teaching, discipline, or classroom management?
Finally, a word about confidentiality. As is constantly stressed throughout this exercise, this experience is meant to be strictly non-evaluative, positive, and useful. Most if not all of us have the experience of classroom visitations as part of professional development and evaluation and know the stress that obtains to our “performance” and its translation into letters of review for retention, job searches, and/or advancement. To the best of our knowledge, you are not grouped with colleagues who will serve in that capacity (unless you indicate that this is completely alright with you.) We remind you further, however, that it is incumbent upon you not to share any form of critique or observation of your partners’ teaching to others in the community who might well be tasked with evaluation at some point. It is best to view your triangle as a closed cohort of trust where what you observe remains within the group.