Making a Difference: Classroom Consulting at St. Thomas

August 30, 2017
Angela High-Pippert, a female faculty member, stands in front of the classroom.
Dr. Angela High-Pippert, Coordinator of the Classroom Consulting; Professor & Chair of Political Science

In a recent article in Faculty Focus, “Teacher Characteristics and Behaviors that Make a Difference,” Maryellen Weimer highlights a variety of qualities that students identify as significant to their learning.  Although much of the list might not surprise any of us, it does serve as a useful reminder of how what we do affects how our students learn.  In addition to qualities such as responsiveness, clarity, and relevance, the list includes empathy for students, use of humor, and disclosure of “an appropriate amount of personal information when it’s relevant to the topic” (Weimer 2017).  Another quality that might be easy to overlook in our own teaching is immediacy, which is described in terms of expressive nonverbal behaviors such as nods, gestures, and eye contact. 

Weimer notes that although teaching is often described as a gift, all of the listed qualities (on any such list of desirable teacher characteristics) are learned behaviors.  According to Weimer (2017),

We all know teachers who are exceptionally effective and they sometimes brush off their excellence with comments about being lucky or just doing what comes naturally. But most teachers who are good at what they do have worked hard to get that way and continue to improve and refine their teaching. They take their professional development seriously and believe they can always get better.

That quote resonates with me in my role as a classroom consultant, as we are fortunate to work with faculty colleagues who are interested in continuous improvement and refinement of their teaching.   Classroom Consulting services are free, completely confidential, and intended to assist faculty who want to strengthen and improve their teaching skills.  Classroom consultants are available for one-on-one consultations with all faculty members on a range of teaching-related issues.  Faculty may choose what kind of consultation they would find most useful, ranging from a highly-targeted, short-term consultation that addresses specific teaching goals to a more comprehensive overall assessment.  The extent of our involvement is up to you.

As coordinator of the program, I am happy to meet with you and talk through how we might be useful for you.  See our website for more information about our services.  To set up a consultation or learn more about the consulting process, feel free to email me (ahighpippe@stthomas.edu).