Frustrations and Rebellions: Why didn’t I listen to Joss?
On top of a bad day of teaching last Wednesday, I also had to manage a mini-rebellion from some students in inquiry class:
Several students are unhappy about a few things, including
(1) That I use a Capstone Project for an A. In my course, a 100% for notebooks, tests, homework, and participation is the same as an 83%. It gives you a B and makes you eligible to get an A by doing an independent project.
I see it this way: You can bomb 1/6 of my course and still get an A. This puts in lots if wiggle room for mistakes, for missed assignments, struggling early on, etc.
Students see it this way: If I get an 100%, I still can’t get an A.
I see it this way: Independent projects are optional. You can pass this course without doing one.
Students see it this way: To get an A, the teacher makes us do things that are optional.
(2) That this is an inquiry course and its different from other parallel classes. In my course, we cover three topics, so we spend a lot of time thinking, discussing, sharing, doing investigations, whiteboarding, etc. In other parallel courses, students cover a new topic each day or each week. Students simply aren’t used to classes like this and it doesn’t help my case when other classes are different. I understand that learning in a new way can be frustrating, especially when you’ve mastered the routine of (1) taking notes, (2) doing homework, (3) passing exams. There are definitely some students who are very frustrated, and I think they are frustrated for different reasons. Some are frustrated because they don’t know where we are going as a class and if we are really learning and making progress. I know that they are learning and that we are making progress, but it’s true that I don’t know exactly where we are going. Other students are frustrated because they wish they were in the other class, where it fit within their comfortable model of what a science class should be.
(3) That we are spending too much time on science In other parallel courses, instructors enrich the course by having students write up lessons plans and having students share them with each other. I am choosing to enrich my course by talking about the nature of science more and by watching videos of children doing science. I would say my course is 70% inquiry into science, 20% inquiry into the nature of science, and 10% inquiry into children’s thinking about science. Other courses are perhaps more like 60% activities related to science and 40% activities related to teaching science. Students are unhappy that the other courses are about teaching science, where they get to collect, make, and share lesson plans; whereas my course we mostly do science.
I understand their frustrations. I also understand that not every student feels the way these students do. Many students have told me that they really enjoy the course. The Joss in my head, however, is reminding me that I didn’t spend enough time in the beginning of the course selling it–explaining why and convincing students that this way of teaching is in their best interest. So next week, it’s time to talk a little more about why I grade the way I do and why I am running the class the way I am.