Explain Better

April 26, 2010 at 12:54 am (Uncategorized)

Ok, so I’m big on reflection. I mean, this blog is a kind of school-mandated reflection, but I’m naturally bent towards it anyway. In fact, I’m probably too introspective, pensive, critical. Someone once said that our strengths become our weaknesses. This is so true. Thinking and reflecting are good, brooding and mulling without end are bad. I try to strike a balance between these subtely distinct traits when it comes to my teaching. After all, the unexamined lesson is not worth teaching. But I also need to avoid getting too down when things don’t go well.

Last week I had some frustration with how part of a lesson went. But by writing this blog, I’m attempting to spin some “thought-judo”–meaning, instead of getting bogged down in the failures, push that energy towards constructive reflection.

I broke the class into groups and assigned them different topics to research. They were to become experts and then present the information to the class. I gave the students their topics as well as five questions to focus on. However, I was apparently vauge about the standards I expected for the presentations. I said something like “I’m looking for a very high quality” or “you all must be the experts on your topic and it must show through your presentation.”

Many of the presentations, however, were weaker than what I was looking for. I’m beginning to realize that me saying that I want a strong product isn’t enough. That’s a little tough for me to swallow because I know the students know the difference between a weak presentation and a strong one. But I think, because my expectations were general rather than specific, there was a tendancy to slip toward the lowest common denominator.

How to combat this in the future? Well, two things, probably. For one, I may want to make presentations something that occur somewhat frequently, and if so, I should be a little bit harsh on the first assignment. For two, I need to give out rubrics with very specific expectations. Especially for the first few times the students do presentations, detailed rubrics seem to be a must.

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