Fatherly Advice for a good class January 21, 2013Posted by aquillam in teaching.
Tags: advice, teaching
My dad was a high school science teacher. Back when I was in grad school and started teaching physics labs, I used to ask him for a lot of advice. Some of it was pretty basic advice, like how do you write an appropriate exam (if you think 5% of the questions are “A” level, and 70% are “C” level, you’ll probably have a B- average exam.)
However, some of it was more general advice. The three most important things he ever told me was about how to create a good environment for your class. Here’s his advice:
- Have clear expectations. Nothing ruins a class more thoroughly than uncertainty. The students need to know what they need to do to pass, and to get an “A.” Use a fixed grading scale so they’ll know how much work they’ll have to do and be willing help each other.
- Give them tools they want to use. There’s no reason to make them cart around a graph-paper lab notebook if you don’t need them doing frequent graphs, and there’s no reason to make “physics for the math-phobic” students read a vernier caliper if you have digital ones available. Now-a-days, I’d add that you should give them tools, like a google doc study guide, to enable collaboration.
- Always remember why this is interesting or necessary. Don’t waste time with the irrelevant.