Thursday, February 22, 2007

And I say to myself....what a wonderful (read scary) world

Well, my first semester as a full time community college teacher has begun!

In some ways it is a wonderful place of continued education and higher goals. In other ways it is frustrating!

Just yesterday I gave the first exam of the semester to one of my classes. The material spanned cave paintings to the peoples of the Aegean Sea. In addition I asked them to fill out a small (literally small as I sut the paper in half) classroom assessment tool that I told them would be anonymous. I asked them to beriefly state a muddy point in the class and a clear one. I let them know that only I would see them and that I use what they say to help me be a better teacher. I try to be transparent in the classroom to keep from weilding all the power (probably that is another post for another day).

What I got was primarily lazy responses. I got a lot of comment like what was muddy was that I did not spell out for them every detail of the exam. I teach art history and while it may be an outdated teaching method there is some slide memorization involved. I do not tell them what slides to memorize, instead I tell them to reflect on the themes present in each chapter and then to find a few art objects that refelct those themes and memorize those. Since I test primarily on the themes and not small details this is a good study strategy.

However, more than half the students felt like what was muddy was this one point. So maybe it was genuine confusion or maybe it was wanting me to do the work for them???

At the heart of this issue is something I think many teachers go through on a regular basis. How do we facilitate learning in a way that is pleasant but also demand a certain amount of effort from our students?

To the students who reflected that they wanted more review of the images my first impulse is to say, "then review them!" I post my slide shows for the entire class to see before I actually give them and they stay up the entire semester. I also provide a lecture outline so that studens can print it out and follow along with me. -- However, that is assuming that these students have the tools to review works effectively.

While my first instinct was to say if you think that was hard wait til art history two where the teacher requires students to memorize slides in the language they were made in. But that would not be fair, positioning my class as at least not something else does not change the concern of the students.

So from here I begin to build into my syllabus some notetaking skills, study skills specific to art history and even more time setting up what test expectations are!


Ryan said...

Learning isn't one of my stronger suits.

It's good to know there are some great teachers. You have an excellent approach to guiding your students - but ultimately it's up to your students to learn.

Everyone (including myself) could learn something from a teacher like you.

Miao said...

I was a teacher for a month too. Tough job...

dsgran said...

Glad to see that you're picking up this blog again! I've enjoyed your past reflections, and look forward to hearing about what comes next.

Doctor Pion said...

Many of our teachers (particularly in classes like History 1) hand out a "study guide" that is really a list of the 50 questions on the test.

As you might guess, students like this a lot. Also, as you probably know, this is not exactly what is meant by assessing critical thinking!

If you have only sophomores who have all had 2 sem of English and maybe history, you can push your way deeper into Bloom's taxonomy than if you have first sem frosh.

Sarah said...

in true tradition of a community college I have a little bit of everything, 1st year 2nd year returning adult to ninth year taking a class for fun. Makes Bloom's Taxonomy a little hard to put into praxis