DISCUSSION for PROF-it (Professors-in-Training): Public Speaking in the Classroom

IMG_2620Welcome to the post-session discussion board: Let’s talk!

Objective: The most important part of any PROF-it (Professors-in-Training) seminar is what you do afterward. What meaning(s) did you make of the discussion? What do you plan to do with what you learned, either from our faculty leader or from your own reflections? The goal of this discussion board is to solidify and document your understandings and plans, and build upon what you’ve discovered with other participants as soon as possible after the session. We’ll try to keep the discussion going, so check back to see what others have contributed!

Session basicsPublic Speaking in the Classroom, featuring Dr. Judith Pollack (COO at MycoInnovation and former Assistant Director of PROF-it and Postdoctoral Affairs, UMBC)

  • For all TAs, graduate students interested in teaching, and postdocs
  • DateFriday, October 24, 2014
  • Time: 12-2pm
  • LocationComm329  (UMBC Campus)
Evaluate! Discuss!

Make the most of your attendance at each PROF-it event! Discuss what you learned with other participants in the comments section below. Your participation in the PROF-it community boards counts toward possible recommendations when you apply to teaching fellowships with PROF-it partner institutions, and posting immediately following a session helps you to document your immediate reflections and plans for your own use in the future. We hope to see you again soon.

5 thoughts on “DISCUSSION for PROF-it (Professors-in-Training): Public Speaking in the Classroom

  1. Like our previous seminars, this one with Dr. Pollack reminded me how important it is to pay attention to detail when teaching a class, not only in designing the syllabus but in planning and delivering each “lecture.” I placed this word in quotes because, as Dr. Pollack described, effective teaching is an interactive, two-way activity. Her tips about how to interact with the class, such as by “flipping” it, were particularly useful.

    As I prepare to teach in the spring, I will allocate hours to preparing to step into the classroom for the first time, including by reviewing the floor plan of the classroom.


  2. Thank you for your follow-up thoughts, Cheryl. The lecture style is definitely less common today, and the more interactive styles can be incredibly helpful for learning and retaining course concepts effectively. One idea I’ve heard is that sometimes people can teach interactive courses just as poorly as they teach lecture-based courses, so it’s important to learn what works and what doesn’t no matter which teaching styles we use.

    For everyone who had an opportunity to give a practice lesson: 1) What take-home messages did you have for yourself? Also, 2) were there any aspects of the lesson that came naturally to you or seemed simple, and were there any challenges that you’d like to work harder to master? Finally, 3) the participants were pretty active – we raised our hands almost as soon as questions were asked, and often there were several responses. How would you handle a complete lack of response from your class after a few seconds?

    As you watched others give practice lessons, what did you notice? In particular, what strong points would you like to remember from others’ lessons that you can apply to your own teaching in the future?


  3. Thank you for the food for thought. You make a good point and ask good questions. For me:

    1.) I need to make sure that I can cover the material I have prepared within the time I have allocated;
    2.) It is easy to discuss topics I am interested in with great passion, but I need to make sure I bring good energy to discussions of less interesting topics; and
    3.) I would ask questions that draw out the personal experiences of students; in other words, I would try to make a connection between them and the topic, which is easier to do in public policy/political science/public administration than in other fields, admittedly.

    Regarding my colleagues’ lessons, I was struck by the wide-eyed enthusiasm each brought to their presentations.


  4. I thought this session, like all the others, was very helpful.
    1)My take-home message was to make sure to keep the class engaged in the lecture. You can’t just talk at people. It is important to make sure to keep the class involved in the lesson.

    2)Talking seems to come natural to me. Talking about subjects that I like such as research methods, psychology, policy, social science stuff–that also comes natural to me. I think a challenge that I might face would be time management.

    2)I think that if participants were not active, I would definitely try and incorporate class workshop activities that would get the class engaged and talking. For example, letting the students pick a topic to follow throughout the semester and give quick updates and reports about their topic every week would help students to open up. Silence doesn’t really make me uncomfortable. It can happen when moderating focus group, but as I have learned through moderating focus groups, you have to creatively come up with ways to gain participants’ trust and get them to open up, while at the same time staying on topic and within time limits.

    It appears that everyone who gave presentations really have a desire to teach. It think that is very important.


  5. This having been my first session, I found it very helpful and informative. Now that I know these sessions exist, I plan to attend as many as possible.

    1) My biggest take home message was not to rush things. While it is important to cover everything you need to cover, making sure the students understand what you are covering is just as important, if not more important.

    2) Relating what I am teaching to something most people know about came natural, since the main reason I enjoyed studying math/statistics was that I could find real world scenarios to apply them to. I think I need to work on finding visual approaches to solving problems.

    3) I would try asking a different, probably simpler, question which could serve as a springboard to answering the original question. In mathematics particularly, if the students don’t know how to solve a problem, I would go through it step by step to find exactly where the difficulty is coming from.

    Watching others give lessons, I noticed everyone had a strong passion for what they were teaching. Also, everyone seemed excited to have an opportunity to show others why their topic was worthy of such passion.


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