Bill Straits (W.Straits@csulb.edu)
Phone: (562) 985-4801
Please click on a teaching strategy of your interest to see how some of your colleagues have experienced teaching successes. All names have been removed from the submitted reflections so the author will remain anonymous.
One strategy that I tried to use in my classroom was learning everyone's names. In the article learning everyone's names was thought to bring a community feeling into the classroom. MacLean said that she tried to do this in the first 2-3 weeks. It was not possible for me to learn the names this quickly. This semester I have over 80 students and I only see them twice a week. Now half way through the semester, I do presently know all of their names and refer to them by name in class. I am glad I tried this strategy because first, I think the students are impressed that I took the time to get to know them. I think it also puts me on a more down to earth level with my students. They tend to ask more questions now and participate in class more. Learning their names also makes me feel like taking more of an active part in seeing them succeed. I can now connect faces with grades and know who needs help. I will definitely continue this strategy in the future.
CSULB Math Graduate Student, Fall 2001
After reading MacLean's article, I decided to use one of her approaches to collaborative learning in order to create a sense of community within the classroom. I chose to implement small group work into the class lecture. After describing a particular topic, depicting common trouble areas, and examining specific examples that related to the topic, I assigned about 10 problems to be completed by the students. First, I had them attempt to solve these problems individually, and then I had them discuss these problems in small groups. Hence, the students were able to both learn from their peers as well as were able to teach to their peers. In these groups, the students could rework areas that were incorrect as well as compare answers and particular methods to find the result. Once the students had reached their final answers, I provided the students with the correct techniques to solve the problem on the chalkboard and then we discussed any questions pertaining to the topic. I chose this strategy because it provided an interactive lecture where the students could become involved in the classroom. I believe that since the students were able to communicate with their classmates, progressive learning occurred. This interactive technique allowed a disruption of the standard monotonous lecture, which kept their attentive level focused. The only real challenge that I experienced while implementing this strategy was the time issue. I felt like I was unable to cover everything that I had wanted to discuss regarding the section. There is such an abundance of material that needs to be covered and by using this strategy, I have fallen behind schedule. After using this new technique, I feel that there is definitely more of a sense of interaction within the classroom and students feel more comfortable speaking and asking questions. I think that the students learn more when they can work on problems together since they are discussing the techniques needed to solve the problems so they become more aware of the methods and it becomes more ingrained in their memories. I still incorporate this strategy into my teaching but I only give a few examples, rather than a large number of problems. It has really created a sense of community within the classroom and I think that the students focus more on the material, which results in higher learning.
CSULB Math Graduate Student, Fall 2001
I was able to implement these techniques (MaClean Article) due to the way my class is setup, I have one class with 23 students that meets for three hours, two days a week. It is a vertebrate zoology lab and we mainly focus on taxonomy and physiology/anatomy. There is a lot of memorization and group work involved. I found it best (from personal experience) to set up dissections in groups of two students in that way they will communicate and learn the material together, this will lead them to quizzing each other and so on. The next step I took was to get the groups to interact. I accomplished this by splitting the class in thirds and giving each third a different organism to dissect. One group had a Bowfin another had a Drum and the third group had a shark. The groups were in a way forced to communicate because they were tested on all of the different dissections. It was a sink or swim way to ensure that they would communicate and develop social skills and also, reinforce their newly acquired knowledge by teaching their peers. This method worked out extremely well for me and I can say that now I have students helping each other and I expect them to earn high marks on their next exam. I also encouraged them to bring in digital cameras and take pictures of structures and different specimens that we cover in the course, and today I saw three different lap top computers in the lab with students exchanging discs full of photos and burning copies for the entire class. I think that this truly shows that there is communication and respect in the laboratory and a good indication that everything is going well.
CSULB Biology Graduate Student, Fall 2002
I feel that the individual development of the student is very important. As I watch my students do their lab work every Monday and Wednesday morning, I can tell who understands and who doesn't. I used to stand at one corner and observe them from one corner of the lab. I would wait for them to come ask me any questions they had about the procedures in lab. I didn't feel like I knew them personally this way. So, I did a lot of walking around and observing my students. I could tell when they would get stuck at a certain point. But, I wouldn't step in immediately until I knew they really needed my help. I was glad they were thinking about what is going on and what could be wrong. I see those few students who can handle independent work. But, there are those who need my advice on certain procedures. What I tried differently was asking them about their flow chart. I went over the chart with them so that they would see that they would come to the same conclusions as I would, if they only referred to the flow chart. It was actually made to be logical to understand even though there were some unclear ideas in there.
After attempting this for each lab for ~2 weeks, I felt exhausted because I was continuously walking around lab and watching my students. The good thing about all that sacrifice was that I got to know my students better than before. I feel that they can talk to me when they have questions about certain things. They don't have to hide their fears that they might lose points for asking me too much. Hopefully, we can learn together and teach each other something that we might not have noticed before.
CSULB Chemistry Graduate Student, Fall 2001
After reading MacLean's article "Making Connections", I realized that my teaching was missing something essential: offering the individual attention that many students need. Teaching becomes more effective when "relationships [are built] with and among students" as MacLean points out in her article as one of the most important tools to make learning for students and teaching for teachers more enjoyable. I decided that a good way to interact with my students and build stronger relationships with them was to focus on individual development. Catering to each individual student's needs offered me a more comprehensive picture of how much individual attention and explaining each student needs. For the first few weeks I would start off the chemistry lab by lecturing on important concepts and then answering students' questions in front of the entire class. I also would put students in small groups to work out problems and exchange answers, thus encouraging student-to-student interaction and urging students to explain concepts to one another to make sure they themselves understand the chemical concepts.
What I failed to see was that my teaching was lacking the element of a one-to-one basis interaction, student-to-teacher individual relationship. I started to focus on individual development for ~2 weeks and to my surprise, I saw results immediately. Instead of sitting in front of the class waiting to take questions from students, I took a more pro-active attitude and started to help students individually, one at a time. I could see a difference immediately in the approach I took: shy people would not ask questions or would think their question is stupid, but once I started walking through the lab and approached them, the students felt more comfortable asking me that burning chemistry question they had in mind, but did not dare to before.
I believe that answering questions individually and working with them on a one-to-one basis proved to be a very successful technique in my freshman chemistry lab. I could see right away their faces light up with "ohhh I get it now!" because I would take the time to explain in the simplest terms till they would understand. I felt as though there was a double-sided learning experience, both for the student and me: the student had a much better understanding and grasp of the chemistry issue, while I learned the struggles that each student was having and learned how to better get across concepts to overcome their hurdles in elucidating the chemistry problems.
CSULB Chemistry Graduate Student, Fall 2003
I decided to change my approach to teaching during the labs. It became clear that reading the instructions for calculations in the lab manual and my explanations of the tasks were not effective teaching strategies. At about the same time I witnessed the documentaries "A Private Universe," and "Minds of Our Own." Both of these short films highlighted the discrepancy in what teachers believe they are conveying to the students, and what the students are actually absorbing. It became clear that even the brightest of students were not really learning what was being taught. I decided the best approach was to give more individual attention, and to find what was still confusing for students.
My solution to the problem was twofold. Firstly I decided to slow down in the lab, and take more care when answering questions. I paid special attention to what the students were writing down, to see how they really "understood" the problem. Secondly I began giving the students my full attention by sitting down with them and addressing their questions on a one on one basis. And I would follow up by asking them to answer questions or perform calculations that belied their previous "understanding." I implemented these techniques to seek out the ubiquitous confusion among students. I felt that giving individual attention and taking time to really question them would help satisfy the schism between audible recitation of an answer and actual understanding of said answer.
While my new approach is helpful for the students and for me, it is not without fault. As a consequence of spending more time with the individuals, I find that the other students are stuck in limbo until I can come around to their group, and the experiments take more time to complete. But as a whole I feel the students are more receptive to me as a teacher since I've slowed down and tried to answer questions on their level.
CSULB Physics Graduate Student, Fall 2003
It was really hard for me to pick one strategy because of the lab situation. In the lab, the curriculum is set for all sections as well as assignments, for which I do not have much flexibility. If we differ too much from other sections in terms of assignments either my students or other students will get upset and complain to the instructor, who will have me stay with the "norm." In the past, this course had problems with instructors varying between lab sections and students trying to take action against this situation. Also, I am also not supposed to collect any papers for awhile which makes it hard for feedback. So, I decided to try the best I could with making connections to the real world, and enhancing classroom dynamics….. This week's lab went a lot better, given sufficient time, and I think they really were able to understand why we care about measuring glucose and cholesterol content (doctors having to test for heart attacks, diabetes, etc.), as well as the concept of what we were doing. I really tried to simplify concepts as much as I could, which appeared to help, for I heard students saying that they would rather come to lab then go to lecture because it makes more sense. In the future I hope to continue to be able to relate the concepts and laboratory experiments we are doing, to real life, provided we are given sufficient time.
CSULB Biology Graduate Student, Fall 2001
A couple of times when I sat down to outline my lesson I had forgotten this important aspect [making learning relevant to the students] . I guess in a way it had taken a back seat to those "main points" I wanted to make. Now since I have read this paper [MacLean's paper] it has moved up to become a primary part of my lesson plan and one of the first things I will mention when introducing a new concept. I have noticed that the times that I do this the students take on a new attitude with respect to the lab exercises. Instead of just going through the motions they will "roll up their sleeves" and dig into it. Using this technique has pushed me to really put myself in the shoes of my students. I have to ask myself, "What would make this idea interesting to me if I were a nurse?" I sometimes have to dig deep and not just rely on what I have learned from the few episodes of ER that I have seen. I can't just give a brief mention of relevance to their field as I have done in the past. Since I began focusing on this technique I have noticed a difference in the attitude of my students. I still feel the need to give more attention to this area. I hope that as I do I will see that once I can help them to see the "why they are learning" the "what they learn" part will come with more ease.
CSULB Chemistry Graduate Student, Spring 2002
I chose the application card technique to use for the student assessment and feedback assignment. I teach a laboratory session for Marine Biology, which is mostly non-majors. After my lab period, I handed out index cards to each of my students and asked them to write down at least one possible, real-world application for what they had just learned. I did this for three weeks. This technique allowed me to determine whether or not the students understood what we had just discussed in class and if they could apply this new information to their own lives, majors, and future careers.
The application card technique was useful to me with respect to my teaching techniques. I realized that my students were unable to utilize what they had just learned outside of the classroom. I changed my teaching style to include information on why marine biology was important to them even though they are not marine biology majors. After just two weeks of this assignment, my students began fig! uring out ways in which they could apply what they were learning outside of the lab. This teaching technique has shown me how I can reach out to my students with real-world applications.
CSULB Biology Graduate Student, Spring 2003
In reading the article Making Connections I realized that I could improve my teaching. Before reading the paper I would explain everything to the students and if they didn't understand a problem I would work out the problem for them. After giving some quizzes, I realized that most of my students didn't understand the material. This was very frustrating so I changed my style. Now if a student doesn't understand a problem, I break down the problem and ask them questions. This was frustrating for the student because now I was getting them to think about the problem. If the had no clue then I would give them a hint. The first week that I try this I found that my students were frustrated, but at the same time they were thinking more. After a couple of weeks of teaching this way, I found that my students were participating more often in the talk. There are still students that don't want to think about the problem, but want answers so they can get out early. These students I am patient with them and try to get them to understand why they need to think about the problems. It is the greatest feeling when student is working hard to understand a problem and to see the look of "oh I get it" on his/hers face. I like the results that I am getting with this new strategy, I think I am going to continue with it.
CSULB Chemistry Graduate Student, Fall 2001
I was encouraged by MacLean's desire to connect with her students on an intellectual level: To join with them on an intellectual journey where each person, student and teacher, is responsibility for contributing their intellectual horsepower. The strategy I have tried to implement is to bring real life relevance of each of the labs I teach. I chose this strategy because I wanted to convey to the students that I value their time which means I will not waste it by filling it with non-essentials. By this I mean that I endeavor to show how each of the labs we do is providing useable knowledge and not just ‘busy work'.
My strategy can be illustrated by the following. Last week the lab assignment was to calculate the density of pre-1982 and post 1982 pennies using water displacement to obtain the volume. The point of the experiment was to present a practical application for using the density formula. The discovery would be that the government changed the metal composition of the penny in 1982, and post 1982 pennies would be substantially lighter. The discovery would come when the students compared the density of pre verses post 1982 pennies: The latter group would be lighter. The graduated cylinders we were using for calculating the water displaced could only be read to an accuracy of .5 mL. This made most of the results obtained by the labs previous to mine less than meaningful, and the conclusions were often wrong based on the data. The students were frustrated and the concept was not well illustrated and therefore the lab could be conceived of as a waste of time. I did not want my lab to be unproductive and experience this frustration. To turn a potential negative experience into what I hoped would be positive during my lab session I asked for volunteers to calculate the volume of the pennies using the volume formula for a right cylinder instead of using water displacement. The other students formed groups and did the experiment as written in the lab manual. The volunteers then circulated around to each group and recalculated the volume formulaically and compared it to the groups water displacement volume determination. There was usually a big difference. By the end of the class period we were discussing why there was a difference in volumes when calculated one way versus another, how the precision of the equipment can make a difference in experiments and why and when would you use water displacement versus formulaic. We also gained a through understanding that cm3 which was obtained when you use the formulaic method to determine volume is the same as mL which is obtained if you use a graduated cylinder to determine volume. The class was very interactive: The three students who were volunteers came to me to ask questions and then went back to the group they were working with at the time and shared the explanation.
My reward came when the students filed out of lab with the words ‘Thanks' and ‘See you next Friday'
CSULB Chemistry Graduate Student, Fall 2002
I enjoyed perusing the Case Studies in Science web site (ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/case.html). This site offers case studies and stories that can be used to contextualize science in the classroom. I actually incorporated one of the case studies involving neuron transmission as an introduction to one of my lectures involving the functions of the nervous system and received tremendous positive feedback. The students were very inquisitive and actually listened then asked questions regarding my lecture. It was a fun, interactive experience. I will definitely use this site again to incorporate more case studies into my lectures.
CSULB Biology Graduate Student, Fall 2002
I decided that I was doing too much lecturing for a lab section and found that students seemed to get less interested as the lesson plan went on. In order to fix this problem, I implemented a technique that allowed the students to participate more in the vocabulary lectures. When the students received their vocabulary sheet, some of them had a star next to one of the terms. This meant that it was their job to come to the front of the class and present the definition to everyone. Luckily, I had prepared the definitions on strips of paper which I taped to the board and when they came to the front of the class they read the definition and placed it at the correct spot on one of the classroom models. I choose this strategy because it did not put the students on the spot and it allowed for them to learn from their peers instead of always learning from me. It was also good practice for presenting in front of the class, especially since presentations for their group projects were beginning soon.
The only challenging part to this approach was getting some of the students to speak up loud enough so that the entire class could hear the definitions. However, I found that at first the students were shy when they came up to present the definitions, but as the activity went on, they became more comfortable with the new presentation of information. Also, I still had the ability to offer clarification or more information if I felt like it was needed and the terms were all posted on the models if anyone missed anything. After trying this strategy out twice, I found that the students were a lot more responsive when their fellow students presented the material. The class was not shy about asking questions if they did not know what a word was or could not hear the entire definition. When I had done the presenting myself, the class hardly ever asked for clarification or for me to repeat something. This is very interesting and it shows how students always find teachers a little intimidating regardless of the setting, but fellow students are less threatening resources for information.
CSULB Biology Graduate Student, Fall 2003
I teach Marine Biology laboratory where during the semester we do a lot of hands on work, we have fieldtrips and we have experimental labs. Many times during my lectures I ask questions; "does everyone understand this?", "Are there any questions?" and like most TA's I'm sure there are times when no one speaks out so everything seems to be all right. So I decided to use a different version of the One-Minute paper technique. Since we have so many labs that are either experimental or field trips where there is a lot of observation and exploring, I figured that after every lab as students turn in their lab write ups, each student had to write on the lab write up what two important things did they learn and what is something that is still unclear. I thought that this version of the one-minute paper would work for me because this way as I'm grading the labs, I can see what they learned and what they still had trouble with. This would also help me because I can then see what they are unclear about and try to figure out what would be the best way to address this, especially out in the field. I also told my students that I would cover the stuff that they didn't understand the following week before continuing with the following lab.
One of the struggles that I did have was having the kids try it out the first couple of weeks. Since it was something new and they weren't used to it, many of the students would forget to write the things they had learned or weren't to clear on. I ended up doing this technique for four weeks (3 of them were fieldtrips and the other was a data analysis lab), the first week I only got like half of the students actually taking the time and effort to write these three things down. But after I addressed the class and told them that they HAD to do it, by the second try almost all the students were filling the information on their lab write-ups. The second time (which I considered to be the first time) I got a lot of responses and It really seemed to be helping students ask me or tell me what they didn't know this way they didn't feel like I was going ahead without paying attention to their needs. The third and fourth times just seemed routine and I was getting everyone involved in giving me their two learned facts and asking a questions they were still unsure of. I really thought that I was going to get a bunch of different topics that students didn't understand, but when it came down to it, most students didn't understand the same stuff that a lot of the other students didn't. I thought this was pretty good because it made me feel that even though I might have not taught that particular subject correctly at least I didn't have all 28 students not understanding 28 different things. For the most part after I addressed the class about writing these facts on their write ups, many of the students like doing it because they knew I would go over that stuff at the beginning of the following meeting.
I definitely think that it help me see what key subject material I wasn't presenting correctly or just overseeing. It also is a great way to check for understanding and making sure that the students are on the same page as you are. Having the students give two things that they learned help me out as well because when they think about what two things they learned and then have to write it on their labs, It will just "stick" to them that much more. I think as a whole it just made my teaching tactics improve because now I am more conscious about to present my material and being able to explain it in more than one way.
CSULB Biology Grad Student, Spring 2003
This is a very very interesting technique. I didn't realize it's potential when I first read it. Mine is a late night class and the students are usually tired and do not want to stay a minute longer than they have to and so don't want to do anything other than absolitely necessary.
The one minute technique was the most apprpriate one for me as it's less time consuming and requires no memorization. When I first told them that we will do a new exercise this time, they started grumbling and were so against it and kept on saying that they have no time for all that etc.. But when I told them that it takes only a minute, they said ok whatever lets get it done with, but the second time around they were excited as they saw the importance and also thought found it fun, to just write down something real quick.
They gave me invaluable feedback. I'm so glad I did it. It will help me immensely in evaluating myself and to work on problem areas. This is my first teaching experience in the US and it's been very educational.
CSULB Physics Graduate Student, Fall 2004
At the end of the class in the first week I asked all of the students to please answer "What was the muddiest point of the lab?" at the bottom of their lab summaries. I got a variety of responses, from "I don't understand mushrooms" to "I still don't understand how plants have sex." All of these topics had been discussed in depth, not only in their regular lecture, but covered again in lab lecture and in the lab manual. I was a little frustrated, but was willing to try again.
The following week I asked the class the same question once again, "What was the muddiest point of the lab?" This time I got a vast majority of the same response, "I don't understand why monocots can get big when they don't have wood," or some close variation of the same comment. The fact that the majority of the responses were focused on one topic said to me one of two things, either they were thinking more closely about what they were doing in lab, or the information was presented much more clearly.
In the third week, I asked that same muddy question again. This time, I was quite shocked to have the majority of the responses being very positive. Most of the students responded by stating that they were pretty clear on most of the topics presented. I thought about this, and realized that one reason for this major clarity may be due to the fact that the lab was very hands-on with a lot of live invertebrates. The students were able to actually see how the animals lived in a somewhat natural environment, and observe the animals' reactions to various stimuli.
I feel that the "muddiest point" technique may have brought some focus to the students learning, but most likely there was also the straight influence of how the lab schedule ran through this period in the semester. The students did not seem to mind jotting down an extra idea or two at the end of the lab summaries, and some actually thought it was helpful for them to be able to voice their confusion. This was an overall positive outcome.
CSULB Biology Grad Student, Fall 2004
All the techniques presented by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross are very effective in getting feedback from students about their doubts and confusions. I decided to use the "One-Minute Paper" because I wanted to know about their understanding of concepts behind the experiment. The technique is simple to implement by asking them [students] questions like "what are you still confused about" or "what did you learn today in the lab".
I implemented the technique in the lab about momentum and kinetic energy. For the first question, "What the most important thing you learned today?", most of their answers showed that the lab helped them understand the concepts or theory they had felt confused about in class. They were confused about data analysis especially uncertainty calculations. For the next Labs I explained to them the procedure to calculate uncertainty. To make sure that they are doing it correctly I went to each group to check their readings. Through feedback I learned that relating the experiential concepts to the real physical world help them to understand more.
I think one minute technique is as effective as taking an exam or quiz after the lab. It makes me aware of my shortcomings. Students also do not lose any points so they participate actively.
CSULB Physics Grad Student, Fall 2004
I am a TA for the Chemistry 100 lab. I chose to implement the "muddiest point" because I wanted to know what my students were not able to understand when I lectured, since all of my students are non-science majors. My students told me that they had the most difficulty doing simple calculations, especially when I demonstrated a sample calculation using a different method from that taught in the lecture portion of the lab. Since Chemistry involves a lot of calculations, I really wanted to make sure that they understood how to do those calculations for their exams. When I realized that this problem was caused because many students did not understand the basics, I decided to start explaining things from scratch. I used examples like making up a recipe for cocktails to explain the mole ratio of a chemical equation or comparing two apples of the same weight and size but one being juicier than the other to explain density, and I found that many students were able to relate to these examples and apply them to figure out the questions asked in the experiment that they did. As other experiments came along, the students were actually able to work on their own lab reports with minimal help from me. I was glad that I chose to implement this technique because it really helped me to improve on my teaching technique, and now I see that it really works!
CSULB Chemistry Graduate Student, Spring 2005
The students also said that they did not understand the purpose of the lab. Some went so far to say that the labs all seemed to be the same. The math and emphasis on error calculations confused probably everyone in the class.
This student feedback has prompted me to re-assess what I talk about in class .... that I need to re-emphasize the calculations and spend more time talking about the purpose of the lab and not so much on the how part.
CSULB Physics Graduate Student, Fall 2005
For my teaching strategy I choose to be more positive and encouraging towards my students. I feel that often times when students feel lost or confused in a class they are hesitant to ask questions because they are afraid of how the teacher and class will react. This is probably truer in the sciences than in many other fields. It is very easy to talk over someone's head and confuse them in science courses. This coupled with people's inherent fear and expectations of difficult work make it especially hard for students to actively participate in discussions and ask questions. I think that by responding to students in a positive encouraging way we can ease some of this apprehension...
In addition to answering questions in a more positive manner, I have also tried to grade papers and lab write-up in a more encouraging way. When I come across and incorrect answer, I always give the correct answer and politely (I hope) tell the student how they were wrong. More importantly, though, I try to make a positive comment to each student on a regular basis.
I feel that my technique for creating a positive lab environment has thus far been somewhat successful. In my last lab students were asking more questions and seemed to be more excited about the lab... I still have a few students who almost never participate in discussions. My goal for the next two months is to try and get them to speak up more in class. I hope that by be positive and encouraging I can accomplish this... Overall, I think this technique can help students to participate but I think it takes time to establish.
CSULB Biology Graduate Student, Fall 2003
I chose this method [one-minute paper] because it was easy to combine with my normal schedule for the lab. Instead of a quiz, I would have the kids (yeah I know some are older than me) tell me what was the concept of todays lab, if they weren't sure I asked them to tell me what part of the lab or especially my presentation was the downfall for this.
I liked the study it made a lot of my students closer with me and many of them have remarked they feel that in the last few weeks I have become more approachable, I don't believe I myself have changed but my students know that I care now and they seem more open to sharing with me as well.
Lastly, I can see in there eyes that we all understand eachother much better now. In the begining it was like we were all against each other. Now its almost like we are all doing this together and I have the added benefit of relearning the subject with them.
CSULB Physics Graduate Student, Fall 2005
Getting the feedback really helped me a lot in assessing, what the students really learn as when compared to what we as teachers expect them to learn. The main advantage of this method [one-minute paper] is that it gives a chance for students who are shy to tell about their problems if they have any and also to express their selves freely. After going through the feedback forms, I came to know what exactly the students learned from the lab and what are the improvements that I do need to make to make the lab more successful. This method of collecting the feed back from the students is really good as it helped me a lot in bettering my teaching skills.
Computer Engineering-Physics Graduate Student, Fall 2005
So my obvious choice was the 'Application Card' technique, which tested how well students understood the concept behind the experiment. I implemented this technique during the "Centripetal Force" experiment. The concept of centripetal force at times confuses with that of the centrifugal force. So it was a good topic that could be tested upon.
After the class had performed the experiment, I asked them to write down at least five different practical applications involving centripetal force and explain what was the nature of force acting upon. I deliberately choose the number five, because had it been two or three, all of them would repeat the same standard examples that they have read in the textbook.
The answers to the question had a lot to reflect upon. Though I was expecting that only a few students would confuse between the centripetal and centrifugal force, and give examples of washing machines, centrifuge as centripetal force. But to my surprise, I found that at least sixty percent of them had repeated the mistake. It was difficult to conclude that all these students were confused with the concept. So I thought of investigating the matter.
In the next class, I asked a few students to reason their answer and I found that they were unable to do so. After delving deeper, they confessed that they had discussed amongst themselves. It happened that a few of them had a wrong notion that washing machines worked on the principles of centripetal force, however a vast majority of them opted to write the same answers as their friends did because they lacked confidence in their understanding of the concept.
It's perfectly all right for the students to discuss concepts amongst themselves, unless they confuse each other and develop wrong notions. To conclude, this activity taught me the importance of regulating and monitoring the discussions amongst students.
Fall 2005 Physics Graduate Student
I would recommend this course to an incoming graduate student because the course made me view teaching differently and it was nice to have a 'support' group that first semester where you learned new things and could talk about concerns and other related situations pertaining to teaching. Incredibly helpful!! It sounds corny, but it's a great feeling to know you are not alone.
CSULB Biology Grad Student, Spring 2004