Thoughts on Teaching – 3/26/2012 – Second big activity
I had my second big test toward flipping my classroom today. For those of you who have not been following, I am in the process of experimenting with reducing the lecture component of the classroom and turning my class into a hybrid class where the primary activity in class will be student-centered activities. I’ve been taking the first steps toward that by designing two new activities this semester that plug into the regular face-to-face class.
Today’s activity built off of a set of videos on FDR that I had the students watch before class. This one was set up similarly to the Triangle Fire activity that I discussed in an earlier post. In this case, the students had to watch eight 2-3 minute videos highlighting different aspects of FDR’s life and politics. The other option was to have them watch the entire documentary available on him, but that was 4 hours long, and I decided not to push my luck there. They also had a few supplementary readings on FDR to enhance what I had talked about in class and what was available in the textbook.
I also filled in the students on why I was doing all of this, meaning I basically told them what I just wrote here. As well, I talked about why I chose to concentrate in on FDR for a full day. I talked about how influential he was, how he was elected an unprecedented 4 terms, and how he makes up a significant portion of the total time covered in the second half of an American history course. I have been trying to do this more, talk about why we are studying specific things and what my goals are. I have no idea if the students appreciate it or not, but it is important to me.
What I did not do, and I am disappointed in myself for this, was do much more than have them look at the material and then have a discussion about it. Yes, that’s fine, but that’s about where it stops. The discussion went well in the two classes that I had today, with the first one going very well and the second one being pretty good. I have one more tomorrow. I was just hoping to do more than just a discussion. I just feel that a discussion is just the default alternative to the lecture format. I know that it does invite more participation from the students, but it is still something largely led by me. It also lets a large number of students off the hook, as I do refuse to do the whole calling-on-people thing.
As I said, though, it feels lazy to just do a discussion. I wanted to do more, but I couldn’t really find the right themes in the videos to hold a debate or group work. I guess it’s also still something that is out of my comfort zone. I will have to get over that and get more adventurous in the future. I have also been distracted by our house hunt, which took up much of the weekend, so I did not get to prep as much as I would have liked to. Hopefully with a full semester of projects like this, I will be able to devote more time and be forced to be more creative, as a whole semester worth of discussions would just get boring after a while.
Anyway, I think it did go well, but I would have liked to do more. That’s the short version (the tl;dr version).