Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 2: Why we need to do things differently

Since yesterday was something of a 'fun' day, I needed to get through the class business today. After going through the syllabus and showing students the class website (, I had two major goals for class: give a brief overview of standards based grading, and point out the flaws in the traditional model for school.

The kids seemed to appreciate how straightforward SBG is - they looked at the 6 standards for Unit 1 and were optimistic that this class wouldn't be too hard (Unit 1 is all about slope, which they should remember from Algebra). Students also liked the idea that they'll be able to focus their energy on specific things they've struggled with, as opposed to worrying about retaking an entire unit test. 

As for the meat of the discussion, I stole the bulk of the ideas from Frank Noschese who reposted the ideas from Eric Brunsell (beg, borrow, and steal, right?).

I started by asking the class if they would classify themselves as a "good" student. I clarified that while "good" can mean a lot of things, I was looking for students who thought they knew how to succeed - whether or not they actually did. A vast majority of students self-identified as a "good" student, so I put them to the test and had them watch a video on plant reproduction (also linked in the page on Frank's website) while answering some basic questions about the topic. Most did OK after one viewing, but all wanted a 2nd chance to catch things they might have missed. We went over the questions as a class and everyone came to consensus on the answers. 

Then I asked if the sequence we just went through - content delivery, confidence check, more delivery, then discussion & agreement - mirrored most students' experiences in school. They agreed for the most part, but some were quick to point out that not every class was like that (*phew*). But I reminded them that they labelled themselves as "good" students, so even if it's not the best way, they'd find a way to make it work, right? 

I moved directly from that comment to showing the video on the retro encabulator. I love that video. I worked in automotive engineering before teaching and I still have no idea what that guy is talking about. I've watched the video a dozen times, and I still can't repeat his gibberish with proper placement of verbs and nouns. The kids are obviously all stymied and most can't make it through the 2 minute clip without voicing their frustration. This time I waited until after the video to hand out the questions and then I asked if they noticed what I did. We watch it again, and the kids are quick to point out that the questions aren't in order and that's not fair. 

It all builds to a discussion of how silly the old model is and I try to probe for their own ideas on how to make it better. Most will come up with stuff along the lines of "learning by doing" and agree that I should not be unilaterally presenting content in any form (video, presentation, textbook). I'm really satisfied with how the day went and I hope the kids remember the point in a few weeks when they're struggling with the content and working collaboratively. 

TL;DR Point out flaws in traditional teaching, get students to buy in on a different approach.

No comments:

Post a Comment