Teagle Fellowship Program 2013-2014
Teaching Observation Plan
Observer & Author: Philip Rodenbough
Teacher: Candace Cunard

Candace is a doctoral candidate in English. She teaches University Writing, a core class all Columbia freshmen take. The course is highly structured and regulated, although Candace has some flexibility in how she teaches it. Candace has been a teaching assistant in the past, but this is her first semester heading a class solo.

Philip will come to observe Candace's class on Tuesday October 29th. This is at the beginning of a unit on research essays. The essay of discussion for that day will be Jane Tompkins' “Indians: Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History.” Philip will read the essay before coming to class so that he can follow the discussion. Students will have completed a homework assignment where they choose one source Tompkins uses and evaluate how she uses it.

Broadly, Candace would like to transition the class from lectures to free-form discussion. She wants the students to engage with each other on the course material, which may require development of seminar discussion skills. Candace would like to see all students participate equally.

The most important specific learning goal for the day of observation is for students to evaluate the significance and usefulness of sources based on their origin, purpose, and reliability (terms they will be learning to use during the class being observed). This goal will be achieved by having the students work in small groups to evaluate an historical source, and comparing their evaluation to Tompkins'. This will require students to demonstrate their understanding of the process Tompkins uses to evaluate her source by using it to evaluate an historical source of their own.

Observation Day
Candace will begin with a discussion of Tompkins' essay to check for understanding. This will include understanding the primary purpose of the essay (to study conflicting accounts of interactions between Native Americans and early colonists), and the more meta-purpose of exploring how historians make value judgments on historical accounts.

After the class discussion on the essay, students will pair up and discuss their homework assignment. Each pair will report one strategy Tompkins uses. Responses will be written on the class board.

This will lead to a discussion on how Tompkins used her sources, and an introduction to the system of source evaluation. Students will then be given passages from historical texts, and they will work in groups to classify their passages according to the system of source evaluation presented just prior. Students will share their evaluation with the class. The class will end with a look toward the next class, where the focus will be on comparing and contrasting primary and secondary sources. A writing exercise administered by Candace at the beginning of the next class will check for retention.

Observation Activities
For the parts of the class when students are working in pairs or groups, Philip will circulate throughout several different groups to monitor their progress. The primary observational focus will be on how frequently students make use of the source evaluation vocabulary once they have learned it. In the first group debrief, Philip will copy down the notes Candace takes on the board as a record of student understanding of source evaluation strategies. In the second group debrief, Philip will keep a tally of how many times specific evaluation vocabulary terms are used.

After class, Philip and Candace will compare the frequency and accuracy with which students use the technical language for source evaluation (or their own terminology approximating this language) at four different points already mentioned: in homework (before learning terms), after first session of group work (before learning terms), after learning terms and applying evaluation method to a different source (second session of group work), and finally after two days have passed to check for retention.

A secondary observational focus will be on whether Candace successfully encourages a wide variety of students to interact with each other on the essay. For the class-wide discussion, Philip will sit in the back of the classroom quietly. To create interesting data visualization, he will track the flow of conversation. He will represent Candace by a dot, encircled by dots representing the students. A line will connect each speaker with the next. This will create a graphic indicating class participation and interaction.

New Doc_1.jpg
New Doc_1.jpg

Questions to be addressed during observation:
Did the students interact with each other?
Did the students address each other's ideas?
Did students apply a system of source evaluation?
Did they understand the relation to Tompkins?
Overall, what was strong? What did students respond positively to?
What could be better? Did anything fall flat?


9/25: Observation planning workshop

9/28: Candace sends Philip material to create first draft of observation plan

9/28-10/11: Philip writes observation plan, gets Candace’s input, revises

10/11: Present first draft observation plan to Teagle Fellows

10/11-10/18: Revise observation plan as needed

10/26: Candace provides Philip with detailed lesson plan for upcoming class. Philip reads the essay students will be discussing. Candace distributes the homework assignment to the students.

10/29: Class Observation.
a) Preliminary class discussion. Philip observes and draws the class participation and interaction graphic.
b) Homework debrief in pairs. Philip circulates, listens to students, and tracks their use of source evaluation vocabulary.
c) Class-wide debriefing leading into presentation of reference framework. Philip observes, takes notes on the terms students use in debriefing (Candace will write them on the board so he just has to copy).
d) Group work reading new passage and applying framework. Philip circulates, listens to students, and tracks their use of source evaluation vocabulary.
e) Class-wide debriefing as students present their source evaluations. Philip tallies student usage of source evaluation vocabulary.

10/31: Candace administers free-write exercise to gauge retention of ideas. Philip will compile data on student usage of source evaluation vocabulary at the four points mentioned above.

11/1: Candace and Philip meet to debrief the observation and write the observation report.

Early December: Present reflections about the observation to Teagle Fellows.