Marwen’s Peer to Peer Exchange: Community, Support and Growth for Teaching Artists

Marwen’s Peer to Peer Exchange is a teaching artist lead professional development program designed to provide support and encourage our teaching artists to continually refine their teaching practices. Each term a team of teaching artists gather to observe, reflect and collaborate.

After the program each teaching artist is asked to reflect on their experience:

Did the Peer to Peer Exchange help to further develop your teaching practice? Please explain:

  • I appreciated having someone to consider the work I was trying to do in the classroom this term.  To bounce ideas off of, and to think critically about what my class was trying to accomplish.
  • Observing my partner’s process of facilitating hands on learning and demo was vindicating as to my own tendencies to do the same in my classroom. It was helpful to discuss challenges and opportunities with another instructor facing similar issues.
  • It helped me to be more proactive and focus on my own strategies when in challenging situations. Having a community that you can share and exchange ideas with is extremely valuable as a facilitator. It’s also necessary for the long-term growth and vitality of marwen to create a supportive community to get the best from its teaching artists.
  • Hearing something from an outside perspective brings clarity because it isn’t so bogged down in your own expectations. Through conversation I began to see that I was too married to my syllabus, and the ideas in it. I had made changes as I went- dropping projects and modifying existing ones to incorporate what I saw them needing. And I thought that was being flexible. But I was still hung up on the idea that I had certain concepts I wanted them to learn. I could have just as easily dropped a few of those as well.
  • Our classes were in similar disciplines, with similar goals so it was very useful to be able to see how another teaching artist dealt with the same concerns and material. I enjoyed the conversations we had about ideas for making the coursework fun and accessible to our students.
  • Peer to Peer helped me to see my teaching practice from a more removed perspective, as well as helped me think of different ways to approach teaching by observing another person. From my partner’s observations, I realized I could use more consistent vocabulary, especially with such a technical medium like photography. Observing my partner gave me ideas for different ways to structure the conceptual framework (basically the assignment) of student art in a course.
  • Yes. Given the opportunity to do nothing but observe another teaching artist was great. You can read about different teaching methods/practices but it is something totally different to see it in action. Since Marwen is such a nurturing environment for both teachers and students I felt really comfortable and open to evaluating my teaching practice differently.
  • Peer to peer was invaluable to me both as a way of getting to know other teaching artists at Marwen, and also having the opportunity to observe a different teaching style and technique. I feel as if it started conversations that have continued beyond peer to peer meetings, and I wish their were more programs like it in other institutions
  • It was very useful to see how another teacher was teaching animation at Marwen.  While other p2p sessions helped me see what other people were doing with other media, this was a unique experience. Seeing the way my partner used exit slips to act as a diary of student interest was also interesting, and I plan on trying to use a similar method to help students articulate a stated plan for their final works.
  • Observing a different teaching style and media was allowed me to experience something outside of my own classroom and challenged me to think of ways to expand my teaching practice. Also having time to meet and reflect on our observations individually was helpful to gain perspective on my own practice in the classroom.

What was the most productive or effective part of this experience for you? Please be specific.

  • I was paired with a teaching artist that I was highly compatible with both in terms of subject matter, and teaching style. This was extremely helpful in working towards improving my teaching technique. I felt that I was calmer in the classroom after observing my fellow teaching artist in action, because it made teaching feel more social and less isolated. (It can sometimes feel intimidating leading a class, and watching a peer do it helped to take away some of my own anxieties.)
  • Realizing that other teachers are working through similar challenges and being able to observe and discuss how to work through them.
  • The most effective part of this experience was observing my partners class. I studied her classroom environment and appreciated that she had a list of techniques and weekly goals on the wall. There were also still life books and photos of paintings on the walls. I specifically enjoy these details because it motivates and inspires students to develop their artistic voice. I also think it’s smart to display a list of goals and techniques students are practicing since the vocabulary words get ingrained into their minds, which is beneficial in future classes and projects they’ll explore.
  • The most effective part of this experience was hearing from the entirety of the group about their experiences in peer to peer. It had me think about the range of approaches to engaging students in discussion, sharing ways to critique, the evolution of curricula, and just the overall strategies of conducting and managing a studio full of students.
  • The most effective part of the experience was in seeing someone teach something very similar to me in a different way, and watching students attempting to figure out the process and ideas in the lesson.  I think it helped me take the role of student and understand how instruction comes across while developing an understanding of the complexities of time based art and moving images.
  • It was helpful to talk through my syllabus with someone and get his feedback before the class even began, especially since I was approaching the class in a way that was new for me and trying to incorporate activities that I knew he had implemented in his classes before. While visiting my partner’s class, it was helpful to see him implement some writing prompts for the students, especially since this was something I was trying to do with my class as well. I really liked the questions he asked of his students and how he incorporated their responses into a group share/discussion. I have used his writing prompts as inspiration for some writing/discussion exercises in some of my teaching experiences since then.
  • I felt that it was reassuring to hear multiple instances of teaching artists thinking they were in a state of disarray and in reality their p2p partner expressed no signs of noticing this internal anxiety.   This kind of in-the-head over thinking happens naturally to all humans and can be extra stressful especially in the work environment.  I guess it was just nice to have that reminder that things are not always as crazy as you might think due to overemphasized self-pressure.
  • My partner and I swapped power point presentations on camera functions. I feel most college professors are a bit guarded with their teaching material, so it was nice to see how someone else approaches the topic with their own language and images. But the most productive was the small tips and tricks I picked up from watching my partner, small things that didn’t completely change how I taught my course, but let me streamline and make it more effective.

The goals of this program are to:

  • Foster a community of professionalism and growth through reflection and collaboration
  • Promote a culture of knowledge sharing to support innovative teaching strategies and best practices
  • Ensure relevance to teaching artists’ needs and desires by supporting their autonomy to guide their professional development

Kate Adams About Kate Adams
Kate Adams is an artist, teaching artist, and mom. As a Marwen staff member she oversees Marwen’s teaching artist professional development, student assessment, and program evaluation. Through her artwork she explores concepts of home, generations and change. You can reach her at kadams@marwen.org

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