NHMCCD teachers become students

The tables were turned recently on 27 faculty members of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District (NHMCCD). Instead of acting as teachers, they became students, learning from each other on the teaching methods that are working in the classroom, and those that are not.

The faculty members were part of the third-annual Great Teaching Seminar held at the Northwest Forest Conference Center in northwest Houston. NHMCCD professors, adjunct faculty and administrators from all four campuses and the administrative offices compared notes on a variety of methods geared to make learning fun and produce successful NHMCCD students.

Martina Kusi-Mensah, a Montgomery College English professor, has participated in the seminar all three years. She explained that motivating students, balancing the curriculum and incorporating collaborative learning — group study — were just some of the many topics discussed among the participants.

“Each participant shared tactics for specific challenges in the classroom,” Kusi-Mensah said. “We want students to be involved in the learning process,” and do more than simply take notes sitting at their desks.

One way NIIMCCD teachers have found that works is to group students together to work on a project. While a student may not feel particularly empathetic toward his professor, he does feel an affinity for his peer group and feels he has a responsibility to contribute.

Students who may have been passive in the classroom, turn a new leaf, Kusi-Mensah said. “If they’re late working on their part of the assignment, for example, or they can’t make a group meeting, they’ll call me and say, ‘Tell my group I can’t make it,’ or ‘Tell them I’m at this point in the project.’ There’s a common feeling in each member of the group not to let each other down. It fosters an attitude of ‘community.”’

While many of the teaching methods are not new, sharing them at the conference re-establishes the participants’ commitment and resolve to use them, helping teachers realize how and why they work, and helping them tweak the methods to suit each group of students, their own teaching style and the subjects they teach.

“By giving each other advice, each of us learns how to be an effective teacher,” Kusi-Mensah said. “We learn a lot just by listening to each other.”
To become a more effective teacher, conference participants were asked to describe the best teacher they ever had. “What made him or her the best?” they were asked. When the lists were compiled, the teachers discussed the traits that
had been listed, giving each one their own ideas on how to meet the standards of the teacher who had inspired them.

“These are the qualities of a great teacher,” Kusi-Mensah told the participants. “This is what we need to provide our students.”

North Hams Montgomery Community College District, the fifth largest community college district in Texas, comprises North Harris College, Kingwood College, Tomball College, Montgomery College, five satellite centers and The University Center. Cy-Fair College, the district’s fifth comprehensive college, will open in 2003.

For more information on the programs and services of the college district, please visit the Web site at www.nhmccd.edu or call 281.260.3500.