Thursday 14 February 2013

I don't understand sir! How it feels to be a student

Today I experienced what it was like to be a student in a maths lesson who didn’t know anything about a topic.  As a math teacher is admittedly was an unusual situation for me to be in but was very powerful.


Today was my colleague, CM’s  turn to chair our morning maths meeting and he had set us the homework of watching a clip prior to the meeting, much like we have been trialling with many of our KS4 and KS5 students in a bid to make them more independent (it’s also known as flipped learning).


As an interesting twist, the clip was related to an area of maths that I am not very familiar with, called decision maths. In fact it is a new module that I have introduced in A- level and is new to most of the maths department.


Just like a true student, I clicked on the homework last night before I went home. Saw that the clip was 20mins  and decided that it was too long so I’d do it the following morning just before the meeting. Fast forward to today and I’m sitting in my office at 7.45am  trying to understand what a bubble algorithm is, having never heard of it in my life.


Then I went it to the meeting, which my colleague had set up as a lesson, complete with mini whiteboards, pens and starter activity.  This is where he separated the sheep from the goats.  The first question was one that only made sense if we had done the h/w.


At this point 9 maths teachers were transformed into a class of students. Some of us had no idea what it was having not done the h/w, others had watched the clip but had not really understood it, some thought they’d done it at some vague point in the past,  some had watched and tried but weren’t confident about their answers.


At this point CM used the answers from the whiteboard to arrange us into groups so that those who understood could explain to those who didn’t by giving us alternative example to take them through.  It’s quite an interesting experience explaining a mathematical concept to a colleague that you are not even sure that you have grasped yourself.  It’s how students must feel all the time.


Soon our 10 min meeting was up and CM had raised some interesting points.

If we set flipped h/w

·         How do  account for the fact that not all students will do it (partially addressed by his demonstration)

·         What do we do in class for those that have to move on their learning?  More questions of the same is not really moving them on.

·         What is the hook to make them want to look at this h/w before hand. Why should they do it?


So as a subject specialist, maybe it’s worth spending  some time in a meeting learning something new from your own subject together.  Experience how students feel and what helps you to learn, it could help you to become a better teacher.
Comments re this post are welcome below as CM is a bit shy re posting himself but would like to see what others think re what he tried.

1 comment:

  1. For the same reason that the 3 questions are asked at the end of post that I do not do flipped lessons. I have many more questions than answers. For something as introductory as "bubble sort algorithm," this seems to be a great lesson opportunity for students to discovery this algorithm via collaboration with peers. Even if a kid DID conscientiously watch the full video and understood what it was all about, then how is this method of learning any different than being lectured to? I see it as a missed opportunity to problem solve.