Anecdotal evidence of why lecturing isn’t enough


Quote from me, during Monday’s review session: “I will be asking you to give the precise statements of both parts of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus on your test tomorrow and then explain clearly why each part is important.

Results from this morning’s test:

  • Number of students correctly stating both parts of the FTC: 2 out of 6
  • Number of students giving accurate explanations of the significance of the FTC: The same 2 out of 6.

This experience is certainly not unique to this group of students. Getting up in front of a group of students, telling them exactly what they need to know, exactly how it is going to be phrased on a test — this is what my calculus students, and sometimes my upper-division students, clamor for semester after semester in their evaluations (“Just tell me what’s going to be on the test!”, or recently more cleverly phrased as “You need to learn how to actually teach”) and you’d think that my complying with this, er, request would be positively correlated with good test performance at least, if not actual student learning. But it isn’t.

Something more has to take place in a classroom other than just me standing up and transmitting all this information.

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9 responses to “Anecdotal evidence of why lecturing isn’t enough

  1. liz

    I’m not sure what the answer is. You could try asking your students — especially the four that blew it — what part of “know this” they didn’t get.

  2. Hmmmm. You don’t have a lab/discussion section? Looking way back to my undergrad days, all my math classes had a lecture and a lab/discussion, and the lab was where we did the hands-on work.

  3. I really, really wish we did it this way. Unfortunately we’re set up to meet four 50-minute lecture sessions per week (in the regular semester) and we have jammed the calc course so full of content that setting aside time for lab/recitation is out of the question. Content seems to be the worst enemy of learning sometimes.

  4. “Content seems to be the worst enemy of learning sometimes…”

    A powerful statement.

    I often here from the faculty that I support that they would like to include new/different techniques in their courses but they do not see how they can because they need to get through the content.

    Where does this pressure to get through content come from? And are there things that I (as an instructional technologist) could do to help to releive some of this pressure?

  5. Where does this pressure to get through content come from?

    Often, from higher up in the department. Because courses have prerequisites, and those prerequisites have prerequisites, so Prof. Jones in that 300 level analysis course can assume that his students have knowledge/skill sets A-X.

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  7. Unfortunately we’re set up to meet four 50-minute lecture sessions per week (in the regular semester)

    Ouch. I hope, then, that your classes aren’t too large?

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