2+2 != Maths

August 7, 2011

Balancing Questions with Content

Filed under: Musings — Numbat @ 13:11
Tags: , ,

Teaching the same class to multiple groups has it’s challenges and rewards.  One of the best rewards is that it provides very quick feedback to what works and what doesn’t.  You don’t need three or four years to really figure out the dynamics of a particular lesson if you teach it multiple times in the same semester.

Recently I was engaged in some group activities where the classes were divided into groups of four and the students investigated certain websites and Apps.  The task itself worked quite well and most of the students were on task and actively engaged in learning.

When it came time to the group discussion, however, it was a different story.  I had two classes at the opposite ends of the spectrum.  In one, the students responded and worked well with each other in a very informal setting.  The questions and answers were orderly and stayed on topic.  Most of the students participated in some way, even it it was just sitting back and listening to their fellow student’s thoughts.  I came out of the lesson happy that we’d been very productive and covered the content.

The other group was the totally opposite.  The students did not respond and it was virtually impossible to keep them on track.  The questions and comments were mostly irrelevant and try as I might I was unable to get any momentum in the group discussion.  Two students in particular appeared to be actively sabotaging the discussion (although I don’t think this was a conscious decision on their part) although I got the feeling from the rest of the group that if those two were not present they would still have been totally disinterested.  I left this session feeling disappointed, knowing that we’d not covered even half of the content I’d hoped to.

So my question is how to balance the informal investigative/discussion/questioning style session with content delivery.  I understand that it’s all about the learning, not the delivery, but I still worry about covering all the things I’d like to cover.



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