Parts, Flows, and Signals: Enhancing Teaching Through Visualization
City and Regional Planning Professor of Practice Kyle Ezell’s new book, Visualize Your Teaching: Understand Your Style and Increase Your Impact, offers an innovative method of helping educators “see” their teaching style so they can strengthen their classroom engagement and instruction.
“I am a professor of planning, meaning I have knowledge of the principles of the profession based on my experiences and research, but I am also an educator. I believe we too often pair the two as the same person. Being an expert on a subject may not solely prepare me to pass this knowledge on to students in an impactful way,” said Ezell. “The impetus behind this book is to focus on the role of the educator and the tangible and intangible dynamics that occur between a teacher and the students in a classroom. It proposes how a teacher can harness the multiple and changing relationships in a classroom into a responsive and facilitative exchange of knowledge.”
In Visualize Your Teaching, Ezell uses a series of simple but compelling illustrations to diagram teaching’s essential elements of parts, flows, and signals—and how to optimize their interaction for effective teaching in the classroom. Ezell demonstrates how to be aware of and guide instructor/classroom dynamics depending on the different parts instructors assume as they teach. As flows connect parts over a lesson, Ezell shows how to visualize the impact these connections have in improving teacher adaptability to what is occurring within the classroom. Finally, Ezell lays out the importance of teacher responsiveness to the signals that emanate during instructional sessions.
Ezell recalled his early years as an educator when he was not as attentive to the needs of his students. “I was focused solely on the content I was presenting,” said Ezell. “However, the students’ levels of attention or output or collaboration, both collectively and individually, can change throughout an entire class period. I didn’t understand the signals my students were putting out, and I felt that not understanding these signals and not being responsive and adaptive to them was an impediment to my goal of creating a meaningful learning environment.”
How a teacher interacts with individual students and the collective classroom should not be a one-size-fits-all approach, according to Ezell. The book centers on educational intuition. Focused on the teacher, it emphasizes a responsive awareness to the new role or part a teacher can assume in order to address and positively impact classroom dynamics as they unfold in real-time. Differentiation and reflexivity are key in aligning the needs and behaviors in the teacher/student relationship, says Ezell.
“Many seasoned teachers already lead their classrooms with an adaptive teaching style that is predicated on what role will best facilitate the lesson’s educational goal. It means that the teacher is performative, in a sense, the way athletes are. A batter at the baseball plate doesn’t know what type of pitch they are going to get, and teaching can feel like this. But like the batter, the teacher can alter how they respond. This book accelerates this type of teaching by emphasizing self-reflection.”
Useful for teachers of all levels and subject areas, Ezell’s book provides teaching scenarios that guide the reader through practice prompts that use self-observation and provides opportunities to diagram one’s teaching. As a reader works through the pages, they will be able to visualize their performance and become more in tune with how they create and facilitate important learning environments.
In addition to serving on the Knowlton School Planning faculty, Ezell, EdD, FAICP CUD, serves as a Faculty Foundation, Impact, and Transformation (FIT) Program mentor for new and developing teachers at Ohio State and as a Senior Affiliate with the university’s Michael V. Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning.
His excellence in teaching is recognized and celebrated at the highest levels of the university’s administration. Ezell is the recipient of the Ohio State 2019 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, which recognizes teaching excellence, student engagement, and pedagogical innovation, and includes induction into the university’s prestigious Academy of Teaching. He is also the recipient of the Ohio State College of Engineering’s Charles McQuigg Award for Outstanding Teaching, the Ohio State University Faculty Award for Excellence in Community-Based Scholarship, and the Faculty Award for University Community Members Who Have Made a Positive Influence on Ohio State Students.