Thursday, November 16, 2006

answering my own question

after I posed the question to the TAs, "what do you want? what did we miss?" etc., I of course started thinking about my own possible answers even more. I have been thinking about this in terms of "how do I know if I am on the right track?" and that has lead me to think about some key questions to ask myself. These are questions all teachers might need to ask themselves regularly.

1. Am I teaching X (reading, writing, research, whatever) or am I just assigning it? If X is important--and complex, which all these things are-- I should be teaching it?

2. Okay, so I decided I am teaching X, but are my students learning X? And what is reasonable in terms of learning expectations? I hear a lot of teachers, not just TAs, express frustration that they feel like they have covered X really well, but students just don't show any improvement or comprehension. Assessment and grading are good ways to check on learning, but this learning thing also takes time on the part of students, so it takes time on the part of teachers. Sometimes we just have to wait and see that portfolio to see if what we have been teaching translates into any significant learning. And as for expectations--only a few As, a handful or more of Bs, some Cs, and maybe a D or two is reasonable. This seems like a simple and traditional bell curve, but I have noticed during 15 years of teaching that most teachers seem to expect better from their students.

3. Am I trying to do too much? I have been guilty of this many times, and experience may be the only teacher here. Definitely a question we have to ask ourselves.

4. Am I doing too little? You saw that one coming. I worry about not intervening enough. I think I have the workload more of less figured out (see above), but I am not sure I always intervene sufficiently. I don't collect work every day, I don't have a lot of students stopping by for additional support. Can I do some additional interventions that might help? Gotta keep asking myself this.

Oh, and just to go a different direction, I was thinking of a schema that would look something like this:
1. Am I addressing the textual elements of this assignment?
2. Am I addressing the cognitive elements of this assignment?
3. Am I addressing the social elements of this assignment?
4. Am I addressing the affective elements of this assignment?

Jennie wrote in her blog that she was looking for some concrete answers, not more fuzziness--ooops.


Doc Mara said...

That is a LOT to think about. How do you cycle through these questions during the course of a semester in your courses?

Sybil said...

Ooooh. I may have to copy and paste that. I do ask myself those things too, and I really need to focus on the first one I think you had - am I really teaching X or just assigning it? Excellent way to put it. Why do I assign what I do? I think that's why I like themes to classes... like controversy in English 120: Why are they writing X? To examine controversy through writing, etc.

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