Strategies For Starting Faculty Teaching Rounds

Some schools and groups of professors have experimented with faculty teaching rounds as a way to enhance teaching through group reflection.  Also, a few law schools involved in the LEARN project have begun pilot “Rounds About Teaching,” hoping to prompt other law schools to emulate their programs.  Perhaps one day teaching rounds will become an established part of the culture of law teaching.

But when thinking about how to implement teaching rounds at a particular school, or even among a group of schools in a metropolitan area, it is easy to imagine how these efforts could go off the rails.  The goals of teaching rounds cannot be met if discussion is unfocused or participants are less-than committed.  How should teaching rounds be structured to maximize the chances that participants will find value in attending them and that institutions will encourage rounds as a means of supporting faculty teaching development?

Some say that rounds should not be about giving advice.  Rather, participants should be encouraged to explore the questions raised from the perspectives of their own work.  But how can rounds be structured so that teaching-related issues are discussed without seeming to be “fixing” the inadequacies of those who bring in questions?  What steps can be taken to encourage frankness and positive discussion among participants?

Among ideas for structuring teaching rounds is the notion that a facilitator is necessary, to avoid the risk that rounds will devolve into a rap session.  The facilitator makes sure the group stays on task, makes connections throughout the conversation, and encourages participants to label questions as having particular meanings.  The facilitator could be chosen for a particular term, with other group members periodically stepping in that role.  Facilitators may be required to do some extra preparation and planning work, raising the issue of whether or what type of credit a facilitator should receive institutionally.

Other decisions include frequency of getting together, procedures for raising issues to discuss, and whether teaching rounds should include faculty at all levels of seniority (with the idea being that junior faculty may be reluctant to share teaching problems if senior faculty are present).  Commitment to regular attendance is also recommended, to allow the group to develop a shared history of discussion.

Faculty teaching rounds offer an opportunity for law teachers to learn from each other and to improve our teaching by reflecting on our experiences as a group.  There also is potential for other, less-widely discussed benefits that can have a major impact on our work environment, such as improving faculty cohesion and collegiality.

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4 Responses

  1. At Albany, we instititued TEACHING ROUNDTABLES last fall and the sessions provided useful information about what interesting commonalities exist between all faculty and how to learn from each other. The topics, materials and other information on our Roundtable Series can be found at http://www.teachinglaw students.com under Albany Law Initiatives or just use this link: http://www.albanylaw.edu/sub.php?navigation_id=1780

  2. Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is a “teaching round”? Is it the same as a Roundtable – essentially a group discussion of a teaching topic, with our without a leader?

  3. I am unfamiliar with using the term “roundtable” in this context, but I suppose the answer is yes. A nice description of teaching rounds is available at http://www.law.stanford.edu/display/images/dynamic/events_media/LEARN_030509_lr.pdf on pages 19-20.

  4. As I used ROUNDTABLE with faculty, it was to indicate that this would not be a FACULTY WORKSHOP or FACULTY PRESENTATION in which someone offers a lecture, or article or position which others question and/or attack! 🙂

    I wanted to literally have us gather in small groups around a table in which we had (shocking as it might sound…) a back and forth, collaborative and constructive CONVERSATION! If you click onto the sites above you’ll see the table – although it should be called OBLONGTABLES!

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