NewsFeb 18, 2019

Grading the professor

Partnership expands classroom experience for faculty, students

Frank Daniello and Caroline Acquaviva stand in front of a room with a powerpoint presentation on a screen behind them.

By Georgia Sparling

Every time education professor Frank Daniello stepped into his Teaching Learning and Social Responsibility course last fall, he had a camera trained on him, recording his every move.

It was, as you might guess, a little intimidating. “It is horrible to watch yourself on video and then know somebody else is watching it,” says Daniello.

The surveillance, however, was Daniello’s idea, and he hopes more faculty will try it in the coming semester.

For the class, Daniello partnered with Caroline Acquaviva, a junior double majoring in secondary education and English, to evaluate his classroom effectiveness.

“I had been thinking about improving my own classroom practice,” he explains. “What data do I have that consistently informs my practice?”

Acquaviva, author of the blog Empathetic Education, took Daniello’s class in spring 2017, and he thought her enthusiasm for education would be a good match for the exercise. Acquaviva would be his teaching assistant, and they would record Daniello’s lectures. Afterwards, they would each watch the video and reconvene to discuss what worked, what didn’t, and how he could improve.

It took the pair some time to get comfortable with the arrangement as they discussed the power dynamic between student and faculty, and got used to giving and receiving criticism, but both found the process beneficial.

For Daniello, it was an opportunity to get feedback from his “target audience,” an undergraduate student pursuing a career in education, as well as putting himself again in the position of a teacher in training.

“It’s exactly what a lot of our student teachers feel when they go out into schools,” he says.

Acquaviva found the process effective early on.

“[My feedback] was really being received and some of the comments were being implemented, which was encouraging,” she says.

Also, the consistent assessments meant Daniello could improve his approach throughout the term, instead of waiting on end-of-semester evaluations.

Acquaviva helped him recognize areas of growth, such as a tendency to quickly respond to questions instead of using them to foster discussions with the whole class.

As a future educator herself, the experience served as an example for Acquaviva of how a teacher can continue to learn and develop their craft.

“Now that I have firsthand experience in how to utilize student perspective to better teaching practices, it will be easier when I’m a teacher in a professional setting myself,” she says. “The whole experience has been nice in the sense that I got to work with someone who is a professional in the field I’m really passionate about.”

Now, Daniello and Acquaviva want to encourage more educators to embark on similar partnerships. The two presented their collaboration at the Northeastern Educational Research Association’s annual conference  in October. They also co-wrote a paper, which was accepted for publication in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal for Students as Partners.

Next, they want to expand their model to five other faculty-student pairs at Lesley for the 2019 fall semester. They are in conversation with a few faculty members and have applied for a university grant to fund the project.

“Faculty have to be willing to put themselves out there and also truly believe that an undergraduate student can inform your practice,” Daniello says. “We can all improve … change takes time and you have to put yourself out there.”