Saturday, October 22, 2011

Late to the Finish Line (a Weekend Thirsty)

Weekend Thirsty!
I am trying so hard to make my algebra class as comprehendable as possible.  This means finding a balance between going too fast vs watering everything down worse than a bad Long Island. 

Q:  Have you ever been unable to cover all of your course topics?

A:  Share 'yer mizry!


  1. Abso-furry-lutely. There's no humanly possible way to cram all the content for Hamster Fur Weaving into a single semester.

    For example, we've absolutely gotta cover basic hamster nutrition because feeding directly impacts how the fur comes out, but that eats up time that would be better spent on carding techniques, and speaking of carding techniques, we can't neglect hand-carding even though it's an outdated and soon-to-be-irrelevant skill because it's still a fundamental aspect of working with hamster fur, even though we'd be better off working with the computer-controlled looms, which we also absolutely have to discuss and work with. After all that's done, there's almost no time to work on techniques for communicating with internationally-based hamster ranchers or mediating fur-weaving workflows, even those particular skills are highly in demand.

    I do my best, but the class simply begs to be split into Basic and Advanced Hamster Fur Weaving.

  2. Do you mean have I ever "reconsidered" and "adjusted" my syllabus 12 weeks in?

    Sure. It's always done to address current class needs.

    I still slumber peacefully.

  3. No, because not covering all the material is not an acceptable option in a math class with a well-defined syllabus that's a prereq for various other classes.

    I have *certainly* been unable to cover all the topics at a pace most of the students can keep up with, however. It doesn't help that most of them come from classes in which the professor does not share my philosophy on covering all the material...

  4. I used to have more trouble with this, but one year I finally sat down and broke my classes down into number of lectures on a calendar, and wrote in the subject for each one. As there was slippage during the term I revised the calendar. By the end of the term I finally had a list of everything I had ACTUALLY covered during the term. The next time I taught the class, that was my syllabus.

    For classes that must cover X amount to get students ready for the next class, I do it a little differently; the first time I teach it I schedule all the work and schedule a few "review sessions" into the last week. If I slip behind during the term, we lose the review sessions to finish the work.

    I do all this on Google Calendar and make the calendar public, so that students can follow the schedule if it changes.

  5. When I got lots of Ed majors in a class, I had to water down until the content of the class might as well have consisted of finger painting and collages. Then I convinced the Ed Dept. to find a different requirement for their students. We're back up to full strength now!

  6. What I hated most about my class of ed majors was how determined they were to -avoid- learning. Thank goodness we weren't trying to cover actual science, because they would have been floored by it in class 1.

    And yes, in the series of introductory, calculus-based physics courses for scientists and engineers, it is vitally important to cover everything. If an instructor doesn't during the first semester, the students miss out on gravity, and maybe also oscillations; if one doesn't get to the end of the second-semester course, they don't get AC circuits. These are not topics that any competent engineer can do without. If an instructor doesn't get to the end of both courses, it's regarded as very irresponsible.

    Not all courses require one to be so disciplined, though. In my intro-astronomy-for-non-majors course, I schedule the topic of life beyond Earth for two days near the end the course. (One day is for SETI, the other is for simple life such as bacteria.) I do this because, if I fall behind or get sick or have to go out of town for field work during the semester, it isn't tragic, since no one has ever reliably discovered life outside Earth's atmosphere anyway (despite what plenty of UFO enthusiasts will tell you).

    We also have some redundancy, since we discuss this topic during one of the course's labs. It comes with a one-page writing requirement (which asks the students to speculate, the way real scientists do when dealing with unsolved problems, about the numbers in the Drake equation, and the solution to the Fermi paradox).

    In many courses, one can schedule classes on "special topics" or case studies or extended examples at the end. That way, if you don’t get to them, you'll still be covering the essentials.

  7. It really surprises me that the people shaking their heads over public education never get a hint of what we know to be a near-universal lack of intelligence among our future teachers.

    They seem to have taken their slogan to heart: "those who cannot do, teach." And holy hell, do they do nothing.

  8. AM, if you think education majors are stupid, you should see what happens when those idiots go into k-12 administration or worse...educational consulting.

    Rarely will you find a group of people so dedicated to dismissing or ignoring empirical research as administrators and consultants. I work at a very academically challenging private school and even my colleagues and I are terrified of the changes being proposed to secondary education.

    If the charlatans have their way, we will soon be throwing out our curricula in favor of letting students "design their own educational experiences" by surfing the net for whatever catches their attention.

    Here's an example of edu-logic at work: "We don't know what the future will bring, but we know that traditional schools are not preparing students for that future. Students today are 'digital natives', so we need to pander to their diminishing attention spans by creating an educational experience that mimics the way they use technology. iPads for everyone!"

    There is no reasoning with these people. If you don't agree with them, you are "against children." The people pushing educational change at even our very best schools are panderers of anti-intellectualism, self-serving hucksters, and shills for educational software companies. It is terrifying.

  9. @Surly; Where's my iPad? Where's my iPad? :o) I SO hear what ALL of you are saying. Why is it being allowed to continue? I was asked by the EDUC Dept. to make my class easier for their students to understand to the degree that they even asked me to do chapter summaries for their students who didn't quite understand the concepts in the chapters. How is it that a whole department on an intellectual campus gets away with being so elementary?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.