A fine balance

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It’s been another phenomenal week in my physics class. We’ve got a definite groove going on in there that is about as student-centered as I can make it. We’ve got several different projects going on at once, still, but this week saw the successful completion and testing of our potato launcher (“its not a potato gun, its a potato accelerator”). Let’s just say that at this point it launches so far we’re moving it to a more appropriate firing range. Yay for living in a rural area with an empty lot behind the school.

Here’s my continuing dilemma, though: I’m constantly struggling not to over-teach these kids by jumping in to analyze what they are doing in terms of the physical principles involved. I regularly find myself almost launching into lecture mode once some major concept is demonstrated in one of their projects. Mostly, I think a hands-off approach on my part will pay off in the end with greater student ownership of their education. On the other hand, part of me feels like I’m somehow doing them a disservice if I don’t prepare them for the kind of physics class that they’ll encounter in college, with problem sets and various levels of plug-and-chug formulas.

I’ve been reading several posts lately with the message of “stop teaching so much, already!” and I tend to agree. I spoke with several parents at our recent parent night (reported on here with pics of one of our hovercrafts) and they didn’t seem to have any issues with the project-intensive class format, so I think I’m teaching enough as far as they are concerned. There’s just this little old science teacher voice in my head that says we’re having too much fun at this for it to really be a physics class.

One thought on “A fine balance

  1. Dr. Rosie Thrupp

    It is great to hear such a reflective approach to your teaching. Yes, how we destroy their love of their world and all the things they need to know and want to know about by preaching and showing them that we are all so smart because we know it all. So many teachers are gatekeepers…see you kids are so dumb because you can’t learn this…they lose confidence and come to believe it is all so difficult, that they can’t hope to use it in the real world, where they need it so much.

    Project-intensive, whatever the name you want to give it..some of us call it problem-based learning, investigations (maths, science, whatever) – where there are many pathways to learn and learn by getting incorrect results as much as learning from getting the ‘magical correct answer’.

    As you can see you have touched a nerve with me…

    Rosie

    Reply

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