Tuesday Teaching Question

I’ve been thinking a lot this past weekend, as the semester heads into the final stretch, about the changes I made and experiments I undertook this semester and their consequences. For example, for the first time in a couple of years I made some big revisions to the rubric that I use for short, formative papers, hoping to improve my turn around time on them by forcing myself to use less in-paper commentary and give more feedback via the rubric.

Total disaster.

A couple of other experiments didn’t work out so well either, but that was, easily, the worst of the lot. So, in that confessional spirit, my Tuesday teaching question is a sort of “Worst of” as in, what was the worst thing you did this semester for your classes? What did you try this semester that absolutely didn’t work?

(And if you didn’t try anything new this semester–that was your biggest failure!)

3 thoughts on “Tuesday Teaching Question

  1. This was a great idea for a Tuesday teaching question. It will likely be in my head all summer as I prepare for next semester. My crowning “unachievement” this semester was an extended group project that I had one of my classes complete. Despite laying out a fairly detailed rubric and providing support, it was a complete and total flop. This occurred for at least 3 reasons. 1) Though I created a rubric, by the time the students got it, it was too late. 2) This class, for some reason, had an unusually large number of students drop. The worst part of this is that one of the groups went from having 7 people (another problem, groups were too large which is usually not my practice but given the nature of the assignment, it made sense at the time) to having 2 people. 3) There were too many options, too much flexibility.

    The only redeeming quality of this assignment is that I asked students to critique the assignment as part of their grade. This is a class for future teachers so I felt that this made sense.

    I think it is also useful to highlight something that did work. Perhaps, this thread could be a lunch discussion during FDW. This semester I decided that I wanted to have a running “blog” of sorts. Since I only found out about wordpress later on, I used the discussion board feature in Bb. I’m psyched for Bb9 which has a blog feature. Anyway, I began the practice of posting of a brief summary of what we did during each class after the class. Though I haven’t checked the stats, I’ve had several students acknowledge that they’ve found it helpful. Also, I’m sure many of you have gotten the e-mail or comment from a student asking what was done the class before. I can now answer that comment by saying, “look on discussion board”. The main benefit, though, is for me. I makes my critical reflection of my practice more formal. I also plan to use it when I create my timeline for next semester in that it provides a record of what actually occurred during each class this semester rather than what I’d hoped would occur. Here’s an example.

    After going over a few problems having to do with using log properties and finding the domain of functions involving logs, we took a quiz. After the quiz, you continued working on the Log/Exp application activity. Next, we revisited compound interest and attempted to find the “doubling” time of an investment. The moral of the story is that anytime the variable is “trapped” in the exponent, we need logs to “bring it down” assuming that there’s no way to have a common base. Also, in the process of finding doubling time, I shared 2 observations which you may have missed if you were chatting, or yawning or sleeping or out of the room…
    1) Regardless of the starting amount of money, doubling time will always be the same for accounts with the same APR and compounding period
    2) APR is always ≤ the effective rate (the actual amount of interest in 1 year)
    Next time, we’ll wrap up exponential and log functions and get into SOEs. Also, we’ll do some multi-tasking and revisit polynomial and rational functions.

  2. This is a great question and yes, if you are unable to acknowledge that somethin’ went wrong, then you’ve got summer to reflect.

    My big flop? Well, I don’t know yet. Only because I’ve scheduled a couple of guest speakers (faculty from the department) to visit my classroom later this week in an effort to promote interdisciplinary learning. They will have my group of students all to themselves for one class session – I will not be present. Will it work? Not sure, but that’s the beauty of teaching. I trust my colleagues. We’ve spoken and the ideas are in place. We’ll see. I will take full responsibility for the shortcomings and partial responsibility for the success.

    OK, what has gone wrong? I probably should have used Blackboard more often in one of my other courses to keep students updated on readings and assignments; but I struggle with GIVING too much information and making DEPENDENTS out of our students. I’ll carry this pedagogical dilemma with me for the summer. Maybe y’all could help me with this issue.

  3. We worked on a new assignment, a drawing, for over a week, the culmination of a specific unit in the class. I was really excited about the content being presented, having never put an assignment like this forward. It’s an advanced class, so there is a leaning to more open ended possibilities for the content of the homework. I was was enthusiastic, as were the students. I showed examples and videos from a several artists and organized some introductory exercises. All was going well.

    Over a few studio sessions, I saw that for the most part, students were not connecting with the assignment. This caught my attention because they’ve been hitting on all the projects so far this term.

    When it came to critique, I saw well-developed, personal drawings on the wall. But, the results swayed all over the place in regards to the outcomes for the assignment. At the end of the crit I asked the students for feedback – what other guidelines or information could I have provided to help focus their effort more towards the intention of the project.

    Though my ego rumbled around in the back of my soul, the ensuing discussion was better than the crit itself. We talked about the specifics of the assignment that worked, or didn’t, as well as the broad intention of more open-ended projects that put the pressure on students to work their way forward in a process of discovery. One traditionalist in the room didn’t budge, but being part of the discussion was good for the students, and really good for me.

    Hugely insecure moment as a teacher, but opening the thing up for discussion was the best thing to do.

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