The Reality of Classroom Consulting at St. Thomas

February 1, 2017 / By: Dr. Angela High-Pippert, Professor & Chair of Political Science / Classroom Consulting Coordinator

Angela High-Pippert, a female faculty member, stands in front of the classroom.Since I coordinate the Classroom Consulting Program, I know many of the reasons that my faculty colleagues choose to work with one of our outstanding classroom consultants.  Some faculty members take advantage of this free and confidential service because they are working on a new teaching and learning technique and they’d like to talk it through with a colleague before trying it out on their students.  Other faculty members need assistance interpreting their IDEA reports from a previous semester or tracking trends across several semesters.  Other faculty members would like specific feedback on syllabi or writing assignments, while some faculty members choose to have a consultant observe their class or engage in a small-group instructional diagnosis (SGID) with their students.

Although faculty have myriad reasons for working with classroom consultants, I’ve come to realize that there are a few misconceptions about the classroom consulting program that may lead to hesitation on the part of some faculty.  I’ve attempted to address few possible misconceptions below.

Misconception:  Classroom consultants only work with full-time faculty. 

Reality:   Classroom consultants work with adjunct faculty, clinical faculty, limited-term faculty, tenure-track faculty, and tenured faculty.  We work with all faculty.

Misconception:  Classroom consultants only work with new faculty. 

Reality:   Again, we work with all faculty members, at any point in their career.  Although some new faculty members do work with a consultant, so do senior faculty members. 

Misconception:  Classroom consulting always involves a classroom observation. 

Reality:  Classroom consulting involves whatever you’d like it to involve.  You are in control, at every stage of the process.  When you let me know that you’d like to work with a consultant, we’ll talk a bit about how and where you’d like to begin.  Once you are matched up with a consultant, you decide where you’d like to start, including where you’d like to meet.  Although a consultant may eventually suggest a classroom observation or an SGID because s/he thinks it might be helpful, this is entirely up to you.  We know that some faculty members are very comfortable with the idea of a classroom observation, but others are not.  And that’s okay.

Misconception:  If your chair suggests that you work with a classroom consultant, then s/he will know whether you met with one and may ask to see documentation.

Reality:  Classroom consulting is a confidential service through Faculty Development.  Consultations are always initiated by the faculty member and are completely confidential.  This means that everything we discuss, every document you share with us, and everything we observe in your class – including that fact that we are working with you – is confidential.  In addition, consultants are specifically trained to not provide written documentation and to focus on verbal feedback on classroom observations or SGIDs. 

I hope this clears up a few of the possible misconceptions about our classroom consulting program. Visit the Faculty Development web site for more information about classroom consulting at St. Thomas, and email me at ahighpippe@stthomas.edu.