Current status – a reflection overdue

There is this itch inside me that signals it’s time to stop and reflect. Not just over individual lessons, the way I always do, but reeeeaaally think about what’s going right and wrong. It feels a bit weird to air these thoughts in public, but I’m hoping for some reactions and comments from people who can relate.

Right

  • My students are working. Usually, even when I have to ask them to be quiet, it’s because they’re ignoring me for other on-task behavior.
  • Also, some students are letting me know that they are enjoying the classes and learning well.
  • I am gradually finding a balance between investigative activities and direct instruction.
  • In psychology, I have found a way to use the syllabus as an effective aid for revision.
  • The overall quality of explanations and lesson planning is far improved since I started reading blogs on a daily basis – for instance the introduction to complex numbers last week was completely ripped off from Kate Nowak and worked like a charm.
  • I am incorporating a bit more of reflecting activities and it seems to be paying off in terms of students finally getting the need for, and beauty of, understanding what they are doing.
  • The binder check system is working out well but takes a lot of time on my part.

Wrong

  • Lessons with large groups (at least 20) are usually messy, in the sense that students are talking whenever, and to whomever. I respond by raising my voice to be heard, which is strenuous and stressful.
  • Most communication is teacher-student, rather than student-student, which is not economical and does not allow everybody to get their say.
  • Lessons feel rushed – there is rarely enough time for students to finish the investigations I have planned for them and each class presents so much new material that many students are not able to keep up at the rate they are studying out of class (I’m worried about the time-pressure of covering the whole syllabus and trying to play it safe).
  • Homework is satisfactory in one class, where I use the binder check system, but it takes so much time, energy and planning on my part that I resist implementing it in other groups and am considering changing it for a weekly quiz system with the group which currently uses it. I’ll ask students to evaluate it first though.
  • In other classes I am not satisfied with the amount or quality of homework students are doing.
  • One psych-class is impossible to do group-work longer than 5 minutes with – students are tired and have difficulties focusing.

Improvements to focus on

  • Plan the social interactions during class, not just the investigations or content.
  • Use regular reflection exercises – I have plenty in a book called “Algebra out loud” – to get students to discuss key concepts and methods with each other in class.
  • Get students to share their questions with each other, and present questions to the class in groups rather than as individuals (I get a LOT of questions in psychology)
  • Experiment with fun review activities in math, such as this and this.
  • Try homework quizzes that students grade themselves before handing in, or other variations on this theme.
Well, this certainly feels like a tall order – and I know there are more ideas lurking in my head. At least it feels good getting all this out there. As always I’ll certainly appreciate any suggestions.
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