Lessons from Statistics

(Refresher background info: I am taking a statistics class at the local community college, since I will be teaching statistics in the coming school year.)

I’m finding the content in my statistics class to be interesting and logically intuitive, and I’m really looking forward to teaching it. The class itself…well, I kind of feel like a spy in there, gaining insights for teaching as I play the role of student. So here are some things that I have learned (or have had reinforced)…

  1. Don’t take over. Allow students to build the connections for themselves.
  2. If someone asks for clarification on how to do something, make sure you understand which part they’re struggling with. If they can’t articulate it for themselves, listen as they continue to ask questions while you go through the process again.
  3. If someone asks a question about application, extension, etc., do not dismiss it as “not what this class covers.” Encourage thinking! It’s even okay to say, “Let me think about it / look at some resources / etc. and get back to you,” or, “I would love to discuss that with you, but can we talk about it after class so we don’t lose our train of thought here?”
  4. Be willing to admit when you could change a question, example, etc., to make it better for the students. Value feedback.
  5. If you tire of hearing from a particular student (or of answering questions in general), don’t let it show. Not all students are concerned enough about their learning to make sure they keep asking questions anyway. Care about student learning.

There may be more to come…three more weeks of the class.

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  • Jason Buell  On July 14, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    For me, not taking over is the hardest part. I just want to jump in and feel like I’m going to explode sometimes. David Cox is just the master of letting his students work things out. That guy’s amazing.

    • Amanda  On July 14, 2010 at 8:24 pm

      That’s a challenge for me, too. I know sometimes I just want to say, “It’s RIGHT THERE! Don’t you see? RIGHT THERE! That’s the next thing to do!”

      The last one has been an eye-opener for me. I know there have been plenty of times that I’ve thought, “How do you not get this yet?” And I wonder, after having observed some things in this class, whether that is obvious to my students. I don’t want them to quit asking questions when they still don’t get it because my response is off-putting. I’m going to try to be more cognizant of that in the future.

  • Jonathan  On July 19, 2010 at 9:13 am

    #2 (understanding student questions) is very important.

    But I disagree about #5. One student can repeatedly ask questions, effectively derailing a class. It may not be fair to the others, less vocal, but still students, to allow that to continue. (I sit on both sides, and as a student have found the persistent-asker to interrupt what I am there for, and as a teacher routinely encounter students who are happy to take over)

    • Amanda  On July 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      That’s a good point, and I have seen it happen as well. The student who asks incessant questions does need to be stopped (or directed to hold the questions for later, or something like that).

      What I was going for with that statement wasn’t quite that student, but more of when a teacher just doesn’t “click” with a student and allows that to get in the way of the student’s learning because he/she shows frustration with the student. Some students will push past that and insist on understanding. Some students will give up when the teacher seems not to want to answer their questions.

      My original statement was an attempt to broaden that a bit, and I guess I didn’t do a great job with it.

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