Friday, June 8, 2007

Even More Recommended Teaching Approaches to Ensure Student Learning

Part 3 of my installation on recommendations to improve urban science education.

Recommendation #5. Promote interaction and collaboration among students.
The best way to learn is to teach. Creating cooperative learning communities is a great way and a proved way to improve student learning and develop character. Encourage students to discuss topics and assignments with each other. However, since liberal teaching methods are relatively rare at urban schools, student may interpret this as free time. Offer guidelines to keep them on track. Assemble various groupings of students so that they work with different students. As they become more accustomed to the format, the instructor should relax the rules. Also, encourage them to form study groups. Study groups have been proved as very effective learning tools, especially for high school and college students.

Recommendation #6. Quash cheating and keep students honest.
Copying answers from the book ore from a neighbor is a SERIOUS problem. But I am not just talking about copying answers from a crib sheet or looking over a neighbor's shoulder. Stop students from cheating themselves from learning the lesson. One of the reasons I have worksheets is because it is all too often treated as an assignment to complete. Students are rewarded for finishing the task, not demonstrating what they have learned. Hold students accountable for learning, not just handing in an assignment. Reward credit to student that complete independent assignments on a steep curve and re-normalize all scores to an average. This is a very unconventional tactic. Most urban educators can't afford to have students fail, so this might sound scary. But this tactic could really make students take their studies seriously. Grade on a curve for all regular assignments, and grade examinations in a traditional manner. This would ensure that students don't help slackers or allow others to copy their work. It would also encourage students to answers more completely.

References for these recommendations:
Martin Haberman. 1991. Pedagogy of Poverty
Eric Mazur. 1997. Peer Instruction: A User's Manual
Craig Nelson. 1996. Student diversity requires different approaches to college teaching even in math and science

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