Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Reading them the riot act
Have you ever ranted at your students? Just flat-out told them they weren't cutting it and needed to do better?
Last week, as I was grading their third assignment, I realized that many of them weren't improving in the way: (a) they should and (b) students in the past have done in this exact class. As I handed back the assignment, I told them they needed to do better. I was supportive of their efforts, but also clear about my disappointment. They needed to work harder. They needed to ask more questions. They needed to tell me when things were unclear. I turned on my serious voice and I got their attention. We'll see if it pays off.
There are two ways to think about what caused this: (1) I have a difficult batch of students this semester and I'm the control, the only similar thing between this class and the previous ones; or (2) I may be the control, but I need to step it up too.
At any rate, what all this has done is, I think, made me a better teacher during the last week. We almost always now spend nearly 10(!) minutes giving background to situate the lecture I'm about to give. And by background, I mean Socratic style--we learned what last week folks? And the person who ran the Soviet Union during World War II was who? And his preferred form of national economy was called what? And the junior senator from Wisconsin's name was what? It takes a hell of a lot of pedagogical time, but repetition helps things get ingrained in those neural pathways. Or at least I hope so.
Plus, now many respond to the questions. They had in the past, but only 5 or 6 really participated. Now most do. They are making the effort.
We'll see if it pays off come finals time, but it seems that a little splash in the face three-quarters through the semester was no bad thing for either of us.
Have you tried this before? How'd it go?