A Community of Scholars -
The Teaching Fellows Mentoring Workshop

Session 3 - Assessment, feedback and mistakes

Session Outline (Time: ~ 2.5 hours):

  1. Assessment, feedback and mistakes
  2. Lab scenario skits - working in teams
  3. Performances and discussion

1. Assessment, feedback and mistakes (60 minutes)

To introduce the topic, we revisit the juggling exercise from session 1 – with a twist.

Without explaining the exercise to the entire group, we divide and physically separate the teaching fellows into one small and one large group.

The small group (made up of the most experienced teaching fellows) is told that members of the large group soon will teach each of them a skill. We ask the small group to be particularly attentive to the teaching process that they will experience: What is more/less effective in helping them to learn? How do they feel during the exercise? How well do the teachers function together as a team?

The larger group (comprised of less experienced teaching fellows) is divided into subgroups. The subgroups then are told that they are to help one of the senior teaching fellows to improve her/his juggling skills. The subgroups are given a few minutes to talk about how they will achieve this goal.

Then the fun begins. After about 10 minutes of teaching, the large group gathers for a juggling demonstration and debriefing session.

During debriefing, the discussion focuses on the variety of approaches groups used to assess juggling skill, to teach new techniques, to provide feedback to the juggler, and to cope with the mistakes that happened. From this discussion, we tease out larger themes about effective teaching, assessment, and feedback. These themes include:

  • Establish challenging but achievable goals;
  • Create an environment that supports clear, consistent, and positive communication between teachers and learners;
  • Adapt teaching and feedback approaches to align with the skills and attitudes of the learner;
  • Remain focused and positive, even when the learner (or the teacher) becomes frustrated.

2. Lab scenario skits - working in teams (20 minutes)

Scenario skits are a fun way to surface complex issues and give participants a chance put into practice some of the principles the workshop has presented. Many of the scenarios are loosely based on things that have happened in previous years, so they have a certain reality to them.

Workshop participants are divided into teams and then given 20 minutes to complete the following assignment, each team getting a different scenario.

Scenario assignment:

Find a place where you can work as a team for the next 20 minutes.

First, read the scenario on the other side of this sheet. As a team, think about the scenario and the key issues involved.

Then create a 3 minute skit that brings this scenario to life and highlights the important issues. Think about how the situation can be turned around. How could the situation have been prevented from happening in the first place? What are the choices involved, for the mentor, for the intern? Think about how to identify and respond to mistakes.

Make sure that your skit sets the scene for the scenario. When does the encounter take place, e.g., the first week of the summer or the last? Where does the encounter take place?

Is there a moral of the story? What is the important ‘take home message’?

Involve as many of your team members as you can in your skit.

When we gather again as an entire group, be prepared to perform your skit for the other groups, and then to talk with them about the important issues involved.

You have 20 minutes for this assignment.

Each team received one of the following 5 scenarios.

Scenario One:

An intern is not comfortable with a non-American mentor, most likely because of an initial difficulty with her accent.

Scenario Two:

Intern constantly goes to another mentor for help (aside from his/her own).  This could be because of a problem with the intern, or because of lack of attention from the mentor.

Scenario Three:

Mentor will not adequately explain things, such as an experimental protocol or the rationale behind an experiment.  This could be because the mentor has overestimated the intern’s ability and/or knowledge.

Scenario Four:

Intern in one group socializes with other groups in the lab while sacrificing their research.

Scenario Five:

An intern is discovered doing something hazardous in the lab.

3. Performances and discussion (60 minutes)

After gathering together again, each team presents their skit and then discusses the key issues highlighted by their skit, the choices they made in creating their skit, and suggestions about how to identify and respond to mistakes.



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