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Self-assessment of the day: Be more like Khan Academy

September 27, 2011

I’m feel fairly capable fostering “thinking about phenomena” and “understanding of concepts”. I feel I can motivate it. I feel like I can engage students in it. I feel like I can even break down that such thinking and concepts into bite-size parts for student consumption. I feel like I can structure sequences of activities and questions that help students grapple with their own thinking and understanding of concepts. When I’ve done all that–when I’ve motivated tasks and students understand concepts–I feel fine teaching students procedures for solving problems and helping them to become proficient and careful in working through problems.

But I am lousy at teaching procedures for procedures sake. Granted, I don’t want to teach mindless procedures. But the truth is I have to. I am teaching a physics class where students need to become proficient at procedures that make no sense. For this purpose-of learning how to teach procedures without concepts–I need to think more like Khan Academy. I need to think more carefully how to motivate procedures, how to break down procedures into consumable parts, and how to sequence student contact with aspects of those procedures. Lastly, I need to foster up in my gut a sense that I care that students learn this (even if I don’t feel I should). I can become better at teaching procedures. It is a new goal of mine. Even if I never have to teach mindless procedures again, it will help me teach mindful procedures as well.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Christopher permalink
    September 27, 2011 9:36 pm

    So here’s something your writing makes me think of. Is it possible that there’s something between your full-blown inquiry and KA? What I’m saying is that the Khan Academy paradigm is really rather devoid of ideas and connections.

    Here’s the sort of thing I have in mind. It’s not perfect (nor is it funded by millions of dollars in Gates money). But the narrative voice is one of connecting ideas to each other. Yes, the videos are about a procedure, but the meaning of the procedure is front and center throughout.

    It’s not inquiry. It’s not conceptually rich. It focuses on mastering a procedure. But it’s got ideas and connections embedded.

    What do you think?

  2. September 27, 2011 10:09 pm

    Hi Chris,

    Yeah, in the intro physics course, I do aim for something in between KA and my full-blown inquiry course. I found that at the beginning I could interweave concepts and procedures pretty well, but now the pace has picked up, and both me and my students are struggling. Part of the issue is that the beginning of the course was richly connected for my students, and now it’s much less so. I should say I have no control over the substance, pace, or assessments in this course

    I really like the video. I think something like your video is what I see myself as needing to get better at. To do that I need develop a richer set of ways of thinking about and talking about procedures for and with my students, and a greater degree of preparation in how I plan to walk my students through that. I also just need to have a better attitude about teaching procedures.

    Brian

  3. September 29, 2011 5:04 pm

    Brian,

    I also don’t do a great job of teaching procedures for procedure’s sake. Instead of lecturing them, what I usually do is a clicker version of something that looks sort of like a UW tutorial sheet. On a slide I give the students a bitlet of information about the procedure in question and the first important step in the procedure. And on that same slide I ask them to solve something simple using that first step in the procedure, or if it is reasonable I will ask them to go one step further than that first step. Then I give them another clicker question that has a bit more of the procedure embedded in it. And so on until they have the complete procedure. It turns the procedure into more of a puzzle to be solved and saves me the agony of the glazed over looks coming back my way.

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