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?

Tuesday Teaching Question

I have literally startled multiple fellow faculty members in the past week upon stating that I would be posting my course outline (a.k.a., syllabus) on Blackboard for students, taking a quick survey in class on opening day to gauge familiarity (doing a “how to get on Blackboard demo” as necessary) and NOT passing out paper versions to students.

One colleague said that he was told, years ago now, but still, that he was required to hand the students a course outline. Others have been surprised, but not opposed. “How does that work?” they’ve asked. “So far so good,” I say. I did it last semester, too. In most of the classes, I’ve had one or two students say they were not familiar with Blackboard. Today one class had seven–by far the highest, so I did a quick demo in class, and told them, as I tell the rest, that reading it is their first assignment and they’d have a quiz on it on Wednesday.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, right? Surely others out there make their course outlines available online rather than hand them out…right? Either way, today’s teaching question on this second first day of school is as follows: what do you do with your course outlines, and why? How do students get them and what’s your justification for not doing it differently?

Tuesday Teaching Question

I always hated the old “What did you do this summer?” assignment when I was a student, and usually tried to subvert or resist it some way (big surprise, right?), but now, here on the other side, I am perpetually tempted to throw it at my students, even while recognizing that most of them don’t have proper summers in the sense of being free of work responsibilities. It’s this last fact that makes the question even more tempting to ask, I think.

When I was 8 the answers were less interesting and far less varied–I think I played Wiffle Ball every day that summer–than they are coming from people with real lives. I recognize, too, now, the utility of the question for getting people to reveal a little something about themselves to a room full of strangers in order to begin the delicate and difficult work of building a nascent trust among the students and create a social, functional learning environment. I hesitate to throw it out there at the beginning of the fall semester, though, because I always wonder if it crosses the line from playful and fun to infantilizing–I don’t want to start out the semester giving the impression that I’m patronizing them. Consequently, I usually resist the temptation and throw something out there like, “Tell the rest of us about something that happened to you in the last six months,” and I’m never really happy with it.

So I’m looking for some great first day/week questions that you ask when you’re taking attendance or to get a writing sample or something–questions you use to get your students talking about themselves so you can get to know them a little bit (and/or they each other). What have you got?

Tuesday Teaching Question

Tuesday Teaching Question appears most Tuesdays (except the last of the month) and poses a single question for consideration and discussion. Suggestions are welcome as are revisions to the question posed. While it’s false that no questions are dumb, it’s certainly true that all questions are educational.

So, it’s Tuesday, and though we’re not teaching (at least most of us who are not presenting at DWFDW), we’re certainly engaged in the process. I’m still struggling with the organization of two of my classes and can’t seem to get settled on an approach to which I’m completely committed.  Part of the problem is that I know I still have time to play with them (and maybe improve them), and so I can’t help but tinker. Philosophers call this sort of thing Fallibilism–the idea that our knowledge is real, but imperfect and incomplete, perpetually perfectible or something like that. I am definitely a fallibilist, at least when it comes to course planning and teaching.

Tinkering aside, though, I try to come back each semester with at least one big, new experiment that I apply across all of my classes. The last three have been either disappointments or flat out failures (like this one). So it goes with experimentation–at least I learned something from all of them. Nonetheless, I have high hopes for this year’s version: Audio Feedback, baby. I learned how to use a digital recorder this summer and so the plan is to read student papers, mark up a rubric, record my comments and email the file to students. Since I type 40 words a minute or so, and write (scrawl) about 25 words a minute (less on the train, when standing) and speak around 160 words a minute, I should be able to give more feedback and do it faster. Plus the file removes the legibility issues and, according to some research on the approach, makes it much more likely for students to perceive the feedback as complimentary/constructive and so put it to use.

I’m very excited about it. I think it could be what they call a game-changer. But that’s MY project. I know I’m not alone in thinking about how to do things differently as we head toward another fall and a new academic year. So, today’s question is this: What are you doing differently this year? Are you using some new feature of Blackboard? A new book? A new pre-test? A new website? A new seating arrangement?

What’s different? How are you going to try to be better than you were last year?