CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #5 “Tim Gunn (from ‘Project Runway’) as academic guru!!!?”

This past Sunday, (February 3, 2013), “Education Life” in the New York Times ran an article exploring what Tim Gunn from Project Runway could teach academics about mentoring and supporting students in the classroom. Sound a little farfetched…? Perhaps, and yet, as the article points out, Mr. Gunn has spent decades in the classroom; he began teaching in 1978 and taught until 2007. The article, though light and entertaining, highlights several good points Mr. Gunn makes about supporting learning. Here are a few of his comments and suggestions for applying them conceptually in your classroom.

I pummel people with questions, because I need to know what they’re thinking, what they’re trying to achieve, what they believe the final outcome is going to be. And then I try to examine their work with them, and articulate as well as I can how well they are actually achieving those goals, or whether they are in fact delusional.

Help students to become cognizant of their own thinking and processes. Students are more likely to retain what they are able to recognize and understand. Labeling helps. Explaining their thinking aloud to someone else helps them to “hear” and “see” their own process. If they can recognize and understand what they are doing, chances are they’ll also be able to repeat it. That means this new skill or understanding will become one they can take with them and use beyond your classroom.

Be a keen listener. I learned quickly that if the student’s perception is that you’re not listening to them, and not understanding them, they discredit you. We’re in this together. I want you to ascend.

Don’t make assumptions about your students or what they are thinking. In other words become as cognizant of your own processes in the classroom as you want your students to become of theirs. Not all students are the same – they learn differently and bring different experiences to your classroom. Check to make sure that they heard what you said and understood what you meant. Hold them accountable AND model holding yourself accountable.

I’m here to guide, I’m here to support, I’m here to be the cheerleader, but you’re doing the heavy lifting. If you’re thinking you’re going to be a little bird in a nest and I’m going to drop worms in your mouth, you’re wrong.

Demand that your students accept responsibility for their own learning. Students need to understand that they can choose not to do the work but that if they do, it is their choice. You are not responsible for making them learn, only for inviting them to learn. They must step up and accept both your invitation and the work that comes with learning.

CIP, Center for Instructional Practice

Contact Director Cinse Bonino for a one-on-one CIP instructional design session:

Email: or Phone: 802 651 5965 Skype: cinse.cip



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