Course Evaluations and my thoughts on this year
Summer is here! Time for reflection and planning. I’m not sure if this will be helpful to anyone else but me, but I wanted to get some ideas down to help me iron out this year.
Lets start with the evaluations of regular physics and glean what needs to changed and what went well. I try to evaluate myself along with the students. I would not grade myself highly in some areas, and in others, I would say I’m doing pretty good. In my old way of teaching, I could have guessed almost exactly what the kids would say and how they were going to react, but not this year. I have to admit, the evaluations really rocked me and a side comment to me from my former department head really had me questioning my choice of profession. Yes, it got that bad… But I was reminded how engrained teaching is in me. I AM a teacher, and when that is put in question, it is like a fundamental core part of me is in question, and that is very difficult. I had to do a lot of soul searching in the past week. I had heard that I was going to get push back by changing my methods, but I did not expect anything like this. I believe that I am stronger for it in the end.
So what have I learned?
Well I need to clearly communicate what we are trying to do better. Although we were doing the right steps and going though the process, the kids were not getting the method. They wanted me to tell them what they should have gotten out of each worksheet/lab etc. They were not taking responsibility for their learning, or they did not quite know how to do this yet and I did not guide them properly in doing so.
So here is a summary of the feed back that I got. This is a VERY long post, so feel free to skip to the end reflections. Unless otherwise state, the emphasis on certain comments are mine, and not the students.
What did you like most about this class?
- my table partners
- nothing really to be honest
- getting to sit with friends
- the laid back feel
- being able to reassess, being able to talk things out- if it is science or personal
- whiteboard work and the sheets with the problems on them
- The atmosphere, and I also did personally well with the teaching method.
- Presentations that show the information clearly, good instruction.
What did you find most difficult?
- The tests were very difficult, sometimes she doesn’t even go over the material.
- To me, this says that this student wanted to memorize specific examples/problems and regurgitate them back to me. This comment was spoken to me frequently throughout the semester, and I always used it as an opportunity to talk to the kids about what we are doing and the deeper learning that I want for them to do, and what we have to do to get there, and why it is so needed and important. Clearly, it still did not sink in for some…(Note, this student said that I communicate well. HA!)
- When it comes to most problems, there are numerous steps you have to do to complete it.
- Paying attention. We have too much time whiteboarding and not doing anything that I forget the material.
- Teaching method – I’ve totally given up hope because I did not learn majority of the material – my grade is half deserved because I gave up trying to retake things -but it is also because you don’t teach enough.
- learning the material, the whiteboards weren’t very effective
- the quizzes and tests
- quizzes and tests, often information was presented in ways not gone over in classwork.
- I believe that I would have understood if I was shown clearly how to do every type of problem. And the lack of assistance being expected to figure physics out on my own.
- Note: there were a couple of comments like this one and some comments along the lines of me not giving clear directions, which confused me. After probing, I found out by directions, the students meant that I did not lecture/show how to solve every problem for them. By not giving clear directions they were referring to the Socratic Dialogue.
- The quizzes!
- I think that your style of teaching and my style of learning don’t work effectively, I am a kinetic learner, and you are more of an auditory teacher.
- Um, WHAT? You do know what you are saying is that I lecture to you, right? humm.. I can’t quite figure this one out.
- Staying on task, It is usually loud, and you give us so much time to do a small amount of work that we end up not doing it at all or doing it poorly.
- Oh good point! We will absolutely fix that for next year! Very constructive and good!
If you could change one thing about the way the class was run, what would it be?
(I know I was setting myself up with this question, but I wanted to give the kids a place to vent and I wanted to see what they said as well.)
- Mrs. Bauer should solve many problems on the whiteboard before telling her students to whiteboard it.
- More time making sure we got the material, rather than worrying about trying to fit everything in.
- Try new ways of teaching besides whiteboards experiment
- LECTURES! have you actually teach us
- Use less whiteboards, and more lecture and class work as a whole.
- walk through more, 90% of the time whiteboarding, I’m not sure of what I’m supposed to be doing.
- more individual work instead of group activity.
- the teacher
- me: Ouch! now that is just cruel.
- I would sit with better people.
- the teaching method should be more straight forward. I don’t come to [our school] to stumble through teaching myself a subject.
- more clear instruction and concepts, quizzes on what we learned exactly (Student’s emphasis, not mine.)
- More lectures, so we know clearly what our “tools” for solving future problems are.
- The idea that it is okay to fail, which is what she just stated is her philosophy. It is not alright to fail and reassessments should not be used as a crutch.
Discuss at least one area that Mrs. Bauer is very good at, and should not change for next year.
- Personally, I feel very calm, yet motivated when around her.
- She communicates with her students well
- helping after school and being approachable
- really cares about her students
- she is loving and warm
- half sheet papers with problems on them
- You really tried to make it work for us, I feel in some cases it was our fault it didn’t work.
- forgiving and helping you no matter what
Right now, here is what I’m thinking, and of coarse this may all change before August.
I clearly need more practice with teaching with the modeling method. Now, I’m not taking all the blame for it not working perfectly this year, but I will accept some of it. In the first few months, in an effort to not give away too much when they were working on their worksheets, I would simply not interact very much with the students. This became a problem. The students did not feel supported, and they lost trust in me and the new method, so this made it difficult for the rest of the year. Also, I kept the same groups for months at a time. This is going to change in a big way next year.
A need for more for individual practice:
I also did not give the kids anytime for individual practice in class, thinking that they would get this when they were doing their added practice at home. They ended up not doing the needed practice at home, so they were only doing group work and then were required to do individual practice/work on quizzes and tests. I can see how from their perspective that this would not seem fair. In the past when I would introduce a new idea, I would show them an example as a class and show them how I would work through a particular problem, and then give them a problem to work on themselves. I would say I wanted them to try it on their own and a few minutes later I would give them the go ahead to check their work with a neighbor. During the entire time, I would walk around the room and spot kids that were having difficulty and help them a little. This year, since all our work was group work, I know I missed helping many kids that needed extra help because they were very good at blending in the group, and I did not want to embarrass them in front of their peers in a group. So next year I am going to do more of this individual practice to try to help out the these kids more. I’m going to use the group generator on my smartboard and change groups daily, if not more frequently. I have 7 lab tables, and so sometimes I will only generate 6 groups and pull out the 3 or 4 kids that need the most help and work with them on the 7th lab desk. Only for one exercise, not for the entire class. I think this would go a long way, but not embarrass the kids too much. I think once they get the added one-on-one with me (immediately in class) they will gain the confidence they need to really contribute to their groups.
Need to get the kids to see that their what their peers are saying is valid and good.
Another problem that I had this year was running the whiteboard discussions. I really tried to have the students take ownership of their learning, and not look to me as the source of all physics knowledge. I found myself constantly reminding other groups to pay attention and listen to the group that was presenting. I know that even if a group was quiet, many times they were not listening and paying attention, so the time spent to discuss problems and such as a class was wasted by these kids. I tired to talk to them about what we were doing and how important it was. I even tried to verbally quiz other groups on what was just discussed, and we played the mistake game a la Kelly. But nothing seemed to work in during home this point with the kids. In fact, my kids vehemently protested when we played this game. They said that I was trying to make them learn how to do the problems incorrectly. Mind you I did this as a review before a test. Tough crowd this year…
So, where to go. I’m not sure, I think it is a cultural shift that needs to happen. The kids need to respect each other and their ideas and know that some are valid. We have a pretty good school, and the kids are generally so sweet and nice and respectful, but this particular class was very lazy, and perhaps that is where the problem lies. It would be temporally easier if I just gave them the information (which is what they wanted) but I know that they would not learn the material. So, I need to get across how to learn the material vs just memorizing particular things. I hope that the summer reading: The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and our discussion of the book will help this.
What we are doing differently next year; and what we are keeping the same
Clearly there is a disconnect between what we do in class and the quizzes and tests. I’m not sure where this is coming from exactly. I’m going to have to process this one more.
I LOVE the modeling method, but fear that I really suck at it currently, and may be missing a big/important part of it. So I think I may do the following. I really like doing the development labs. They are so very powerful, and I know that the kids get a lot out of them. This is a keeper. After whiteboarding the results and discussion of the labs, then I may do a very interactive class discussion on things. This will involve some example problems and individual practice, think pair/share, and chose the right answer via the colored ABCD cards (via Ed Prather.) (I’ll blog about this later when we I have them made and laminated. ) then go into groups with a little bit more background, and hopefully confidence, to do some worksheet practice. I hope that this will give them the confidence to know that they can do it well, and perhaps put more stake and listen to what their peers are doing as well.
So over all, I’m super excited about getting ready for next year, and I’m SO, SO VERY happy about having all summer to prepare as well.
I hope you all are enjoying your summers, relaxing and spending time with your loved ones too.
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