Tuesday (Non)Teaching Question

Tuesday (Non)Teaching Question is an irregular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about (non)teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very impractical and begin with an excessively short preamble.  T(n)TQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming T(n)TQ, don’t e-mail me at hwc_cast@ccc.edu since this is a one shot deal.

So we survived the semester and final grades are (almost) in…

Those of you teaching summer have a few weeks off; the rest of us have a significantly longer amount of time.

What are you planning to read/watch/see during your time off?

It would be kind of fun if we had a faculty book club of sort (similar to the once existent Pedagogy reading group).  Maybe from these responses we could find a book we could all read and discuss in the fall.

Reading Aloud

One of the most effective new things I did in the last few years was the decision to have students listen to a reading of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays in class, while reading along with it. Later in the year, I read those same classes most of Plato’s Apology, allowing students to hear it as a speech, read fluently and with vocal emphasis. The effects on student’s comprehension of those texts (as well as the subsequent texts by the same author) were pretty stunning.

The readings made the key ideas more readily accessible and decoded the author’s stylistic tendencies and patterns. Students weren’t fighting to read the words AND the sentences AND track the arguments. The first two were done for them, which allowed them to do the third, and that experience (I was told by many students in their exit interviews) opened up that text and the others. They found that the author/piece had value, and so they were more interested (and willing) to do the work on their own in the next one because A) they had a clue about the voice of the author; B) they had an expectation that they’d find ideas of interest in it; and C) they knew they could do it because they just had. It was really great, all around, and I’ll definitely do it again, maybe earlier, and possibly more often in future classes.

I say all of that not to break my arm patting my self on the back, but to share something that worked AND because, apparently, the idea (or an iteration of it) is something of a meme going around. I read it on Inside Higher Ed, so it must be true:

While the oral reading is as old as literature itself, it is not the norm on campuses. But faculty members and students who have participated in such readings say the events help convey messages, engage students, and foster community on their campuses in ways that reading alone cannot do. “Until you hear another student read it in his or her own voice, you don’t really understand the vast possibilities for interpretation,” said Dillon Jackson, one of Thickstun’s students.

So, if I threw a read aloud, would you come?

Tuesday Teaching Question

Tuesday Teaching Question is a regular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very practical and begin with an excessively long preamble.  TTQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming TTQ, e-mail me at hwc_cast@ccc.edu.

Here’s last week’s, back by unpopular demand. 🙂

Yesterday (now one week ago) seemed to be a day full of waiting…waiting for the Red Line to get to work, waiting for various websites to load at HWC, waiting on line (yeah, I said “on line” instead of “in line”; I’m from NY) to submit my midterm grades (they’re due today BTW), waiting for students to stop in during office hours, etc.  If you’re like me, when you’re waiting, your mind starts to wander.  Today’s TTQ is inspired by the time I spent waiting.

I was thinking about our new president’s letter and his blog (and now his 2nd entry about academic “coaching”).  I jokingly asked the class I was teaching yesterday if the building felt any different.  They asked me why I’d asked this.  I went on to tell them that we had a new president.  They asked me if this was a good thing.  I said, “so far, so good.”  I remain optimistic.  Anyway, here’s the ending of President Laackman’s letter.  Maybe we can jump start the “getting to know you” process.

Our mission is central to who we are. All of us bring that mission to life. I am trying to learn how you do that and what you need to do an even better job for our students. I look forward to working with you to support our students and prepare them to realize their dreams.

What do you need to do an even better job for our students?

What do you do currently that you think others should know about?

Tuesday Teaching Question

Tuesday Teaching Question is a regular feature that attempts to get a conversation going about teaching.  Typically, the questions attempt to be very practical.  TTQ is brought to you by CAST.  If you have a question that you’re dying to have featured in an upcoming TTQ, e-mail me at hwc_cast@ccc.edu.

The mayoral race has been heating up and the primaries are a few weeks away (2 weeks from today to be exact).  I’m attempting to get the preservice teachers in my Math for Elementary teachers classes thinking about the impact that the new mayor would have on their future livelihood by asking them to read the candidates education platforms and discuss them.  (Phew, that was a long sentence!)  Anyway…

Are you incorporating the mayoral race into your classes?  If so, how?

The last Tuesday Teaching Question(s) of 2010 (I think.)

OOPS, this should have gone up at 11:59 last night.  I had it scheduled for 11:59 tonight, giving people only one minute on Tuesday for the Tuesday teaching question.  Sorry for the delay.

The end is here.  The multicolored pen business is booming as we in the education business (ha, according to who?) do our business so we can enjoy a much earned vacation (if such a thing is truly possible).  I figured I’d keep it incredibly practical and low level this week in order to respect the cognitive demands of grading.  Here goes.  The even-numbered questions are slightly meatier than the odd-numbered ones.  In fact, the one that is divisible by 3 and even (i.e. divisible by 6) is likely the meatiest of them all (and my original TTQ idea).

1. Are you procrastinating from grading right now?

11. Do you have a red pen to lend me?

24. Since it’s likely that many students won’t come back to collect their final work from you (assuming it hasn’t happened already)…

a) What do you do with you students’ work?

b) Are you as careful “marking their work up” knowing that they will likely never see it?

40. Do you use a percent based grade weighting scale or points?  Why?

115. Would you be more likely to grade in room 1046 if there was music playing?

Let’s see if we can get more than 2 responses this week.  Thanks for reading.  Good luck in this final week.

In what ways can a teacher get in the way of a students’ growth?

In what ways can we teachers actually impede the growth of a student, despite our best intentions? It is a fundamental element of my teaching philosophy that it is my job to stimulate a student’s curiosity and enable them to learn and process new information on their own, and that I must avoid the model in which I give them the information that I expect them to absorb. Despite this being my goal, I probably get in the way of that goal, every time I get frustrated by something a student says or writes, and every time I try to give them my “wise advice” about learning and life.

I was meeting with some students today, and one of them related a conversation had with a professor. The student’s account was of expressing about two hours worth of thoughts to the professor, and that the professor merely listened with enthusiasm and interest. The student’s reaction was absolutely warm and positive. I realize that if I had been in the student’s position, I would probably have felt the same way, and thankful that someone’s character and intellect I respected would let me elaborate my thoughts. I also realized that I have never been that professor: that when a student comes to visit me, I perhaps deliver “sage advice” all too often. If I was a student visiting myself as a professor, I wonder if I would become frustrated? I wonder if I would have “learned” that my thoughts were not good enough? My teaching habits may be at odds with my teaching philosophy goals.

PhiloDave related a story a while back about dealing with “silent students” that is of a similar vein: the desire to get students talking can be distracting and counter-productive for those students, of whom I was a member, who are generally quiet and reflective, and more comfortable thinking through the ideas slowly.

Have you had a similar epiphany? In what ways have you gotten in the way of a student’s learning?

Tuesday Teaching Question

So the mid-term is nearly upon us, as we work our way through week 7 of the semester, and I’m thinking about putting out a survey for the students or gathering anonymous feedback or opening some other channel of communication, just like all the student-centered instructional advice says I ought to do, but, like always, I hesitate. Not out of fear or anything else, but because I have a pretty good idea of what I’ll get if I ask: they’d like their papers back faster, I’m sure; also, less reading; also more reading; also, no pop quizzes (they always seem to come on the one day the student has not read); also, more pop quizzes (to force more people to read); more time with each text; move faster through the material; and so on and so on.

The point is that I don’t seem to get helpful information back, when I give it, and most of the suggestions end up being canceled out (which I guess is potentially informative for the students (i.e., not everyone feels the same way about the class), but I also don’t see how finding such information out would be helpful and it comes at the cost of time when I’m already behind.

So, I guess today’s question is twofold: #1) do you seek feedback from your students mid-semester (or along the way) and if so, what questions do you find provide you with helpful information?