Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Worth a repost

This morning I received a brief but touching comment on my most recent blog post: "I miss Patrick teaching." I responded to this anonymous post in a manner which I repost here because I think it's worth wider readership:

Please know that I'm organizing this class in a non-traditional manner not because I want to avoid "teaching" (though, believe me, I'm doing as much teaching, in a non-traditional sense, as I would in any other course), but because I truly feel that the Moore method is the best way to approach this material. By asking you all to explain your ideas to one another, it firms up your understanding of those ideas. By asking you to take responsibility for your work, you become the authors (quite literally) of the ideas you're presenting to one another. It's much more learner-centered, and ultimately (I believe, and the literature on pedagogy bears me out) more effective.

Thank you for your kind sentiment! I've not totally disappeared from the scene; as you've noticed, I hope, I'll take my turn "on stage" from time to time.

To elaborate briefly: I know I'm a good lecturer, and I know that I explain things well. But seeing something done and doing it yourself are two different things, and you stand to gain much more from actually solving the problems yourself and explaining your solutions to each other than you do listening to me do it for you. It's a bit more work on your part, to be sure, but the time you spend on that work will be time well spent. Meanwhile, please know I'm still doing a lot of work behind the scenes, arranging problems in a manner I think is effective to help you work your way through the new ideas, including the definitions and theorems I think are most critical to us in our work, and working with you in class as you develop your solutions.

This I promise you: my explanations are still here for you if you need them, and I will be delighted to help you work your way through any problem you might struggle with. All I'm asking is that you give it all you've got to come up with solutions on your own first. Believe me, you'll get much more out of it that way.

So, let's stay the course, y'all. I'm enjoying class so far, and so far you're doing a marvelous job. Keep it up!


Anonymous said...

I completely agree! The structure of your class keeps me fully engaged the entire time, whereas lecturing tends to encourage me to zone out and miss key concepts. Last semester in Janine's Calc II class, I found I was much more confidant in the material when I began tutoring a failing student. Explaining things to our peers allows us not only to show off and gain confidence, but also gives us a deeper understanding. Teaching someone something is a lot more challenging and comprehensive than simply doing the problem and turning it in. And making the decisions on class structure is in itself a significant teaching tool.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, at the beginning of the semester, I had wished that you would explain things more then throwing us into the problem sets. I missed the lessons. However, now that we are 4-5 weeks in, I am finding that I can remember and understand what we are doing a lot better then what I would have from just lectures and notes. I believe my homework shows a great deal of this as I am able to explain what I am doing and am understanding why. Though I would have disagreed with this method in the beginning, I am not at all disagreeing with it now :)
I will also have to agree with the other anonymous post. Teaching our peers gives us a deeper understanding of the problems. "Teaching someone something is a lot more challenging and comprehensive than simply doing the problem and turning it in".

Anonymous said...

At the beginning of the semester, I was excited about the Moore method. But now, a month or so into the semester, I am finding that I am having a hard time being "taught" by my peers. Everyone learns in a different way, and I personally learn the most with lecture, examples, and then collaboration. Let us loose after you have gone over the material and given us a fair amount of examples, please.

Just putting in my two cents on the matter. I would like the professor to guide us more, definitely when it comes to new material (which for me is just about everything). I am paying the university for professors to teach me, not students.