The Team Approach to Developing Baseline Teaching Skills


The United States Military Academy ran a short course entitled, “Teaching Teachers to Teach Engineering” from July 28 through August 2, 1996. This short course was made possible by a generous grant from the National Science Foundation.

The objectives of the short course included increasing the teaching ability of participants through a series of hands-on teaching experiences. This paper documents the experience of the six co-authors during the team events that occurred in the classroom. It is not the intention of this paper to describe the short-course or the assessment of that event.

Jerry Samples was the team mentor/facilitator with similar experience during ten years of new instructor workshops at the United States Military Academy. Brad Snowden assisted based on his recent completion of a similar program. Anu Maria, Peter Silsbee, and Valerie Young were program participants with limited teaching experience and no formal teacher training. Joe Newkirk had 10 years teaching experience, also with no formal teacher training. Joe brought a different perspective to the team.

The goal: enhance participant teacher skills while developing self-confidence in all phases of teaching.

The method: teach a series of classes to the group, each class being followed by an assessment period. The participants were exposed to several teaching styles via separate demonstration classes. The team was tasked with teaching classes to each other using methods presented in the demonstration classes. Participants took turns roleplaying as teacher and students during these classes. Team members assessed their own teaching after each class and were then assessed by the full team.

The result: discussed in the individual self-assessment of the participants.

Mentor’s overview: Being thrown into a room with total strangers and asked to teach classes from your specialty in a contrived classroom environment is a difficult task. There are the questions of ego, realism, peer review, video self-assessment, and the objectivity of the mentor that cause some concern. The response of this group was exceptional and the amount of learning that took place was phenomenal. Peer review was courteous, yet on target. Self-assessment was more critical, yet instructive. The participants worked well together, learned how to assess themselves and others in a manner conducive to learning. They also found that teaching technique has a profound impact on student learning. Some found little things that caused immense improvements Page 2.429.1 to occur in just three days. Of course, there was the underlying concern of the ability to transfer what was learned to the home institution.

This paper addresses the group dynamics, the learning, and the impressions of the participants exposed to this hyper-critical environment. The results are meant to help others understand that teacher training through peer review and mentoring is possible and with great benefit. Finally, the participants will discuss what they carried away from the short course.

Meeting Name

American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition (1997: Jun. 15-18, Milwaukee, WI)


Materials Science and Engineering

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 1997 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

18 Jun 1997

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