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Author Topic: Classroom Victories  (Read 271602 times)
systeme_d_
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« on: November 19, 2009, 11:37:05 PM »

I posted about a classroom victory of mine over on the Inhaling thread, but as I was doing so, it occurred to me that it might be cool to have a thread called "Classroom Victories."

I'd like to hear about the things forumites have done in the classroom that were planned well and worked well, or that accidentally worked well, or that were just plain fun.

Have at it!
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galactic_hedgehog
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2009, 11:38:12 PM »

As promised:

During lab this week, near the end of class, with most of the students already gone, one guy is looking at a map of one of the Galapagos Islands, which happens to have a volcano named Darwin.  He looks up and says, with total sincerity, "Why is Darwin so important?"  This started about a twenty-minute conversation (well, mainly from my side) about Darwin, The Beagle, the Galapogos, and (especially) evolution.  It was pretty much off-topic for the class, but it was a great opportunity to educate a couple of students (one of his lab partners stayed and participated in the conversation) about one of the most important figures in history and one of the most important ideas in science.  I wish could remember specific lines, but it was one of those times that make you really glad you're a professor.
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much_metta
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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2009, 12:01:20 AM »

One of the courses I teach is 100% classroom discussion of the assigned readings, usually socratic method, but not always.  We only have a few more class meetings this semester.  Usually, it is like pulling teeth to get more than 3-4 of the students to respond to the questions/prompts.  This week, I had one of "those moments" where you actually get to take a step back and observe something amazing that has just happened.  We were in the middle of a discussion that had started to become quite heated, and then all at once the members of the class turned from their seats to face each other and started asking each other questions--really good questions.  I just stood there, amazed, for about 5 minutes just watching this.  I then pointed out to the class how amazing that was--essentially I was no longer necessary to "facilitate" their discussion; they didn't need me anymore--and you could see that THEY got what a big deal that was, too. 

What was most amazing... the class is all first-semester freshmen.
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racerboy
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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2009, 12:05:03 AM »

Demonstration lab in a structures class.  We've been through a couple days of pretty tough stuff on frame theory.  In the lab we load popsicle stick frames to show how they react to loads in different directions.  The moment frame displays AWESOME double curvature (long story, but this is what it's supposed to do).  One of the students pipes up with:

"Wow, that looks kinda like the diagram you showed in the lecture.  Cool."

Epic win.  I was almost in tears.
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larryc
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« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2009, 12:13:02 AM »

I am teaching a class on local history research methods where we meet at a museum every other class and do work in the archives. The fourth week of class I went to the museum 15 minutes early. "I want to be here before my students," I told the lady at the desk. "Well you are a bit late for that professor," she said. And I looked at the sign-in sheet in my hands and saw that every single student was already there, and that some had signed in three hours before. They are just on fire with their topics.
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tee_bee
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« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2009, 12:17:19 AM »

My master's-level class on emergency management gave knockout presentations tonight. They used powerpoint, but really well, their presentations were tight, focused, well-researched, and highly professional. I learned more in one night listening than in three nights teaching. Win.

Larry, I got goosebumps reading your story. I think this is going to be a great thread.
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peppergal
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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2009, 4:44:07 AM »

One year, while teaching freshman comp, I asked my students on the first day of class to write down some genres that they read for fun (i.e. not school-related).  One student wrote, "Honestly, I have never read anything for fun in my life.  I hate to read."

Three weeks later, he came bouncing into class looking extremely enthusiastic about something.  We had just started a new novel (I had assigned the first three chapters), and I started with my usual question about first impressions.  The non-reader student raised his hand, and before I even finished saying his name burst out with, "This is the greatest thing I have ever read.  I haven't slept for two days and I skipped my physics class because I had to finish it, even though you only assigned the first three chapters and I just couldn't put it down!"  The rest of the class laughed a little, but it started a really good discussion about why the novel was so compelling, how it grabbed their attention (it turned out that they had all read ahead), etc.

Six months later I ran into that same student browsing in a local bookstore.  He told me that I had changed his life, and that since my class he was actually reading for fun and enjoying it.  We had a nice conversation about what I read for fun, and I recommended some books for him.  It just gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.
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notaprof
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« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2009, 8:28:25 AM »

One year, while teaching freshman comp, I asked my students on the first day of class to write down some genres that they read for fun (i.e. not school-related).  One student wrote, "Honestly, I have never read anything for fun in my life.  I hate to read."

Three weeks later, he came bouncing into class looking extremely enthusiastic about something.  We had just started a new novel (I had assigned the first three chapters), and I started with my usual question about first impressions.  The non-reader student raised his hand, and before I even finished saying his name burst out with, "This is the greatest thing I have ever read.  I haven't slept for two days and I skipped my physics class because I had to finish it, even though you only assigned the first three chapters and I just couldn't put it down!"  The rest of the class laughed a little, but it started a really good discussion about why the novel was so compelling, how it grabbed their attention (it turned out that they had all read ahead), etc.

Six months later I ran into that same student browsing in a local bookstore.  He told me that I had changed his life, and that since my class he was actually reading for fun and enjoying it.  We had a nice conversation about what I read for fun, and I recommended some books for him.  It just gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

This kid could have been my second child.  Since I am not certain exactly who finally sparked his interest in reading, I will thank you instead, peppergal.  Way to go!
« Last Edit: November 20, 2009, 8:28:53 AM by notaprof » Logged

compdoc
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« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2009, 10:47:54 AM »

Okay, larryc and peppergal, those are great stories. They are the kind of tales that keep us teaching, I expect.
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grasshopper
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« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2009, 11:07:58 AM »

The set up:

First year student, taking my intro course, comes to see me after class to discuss ways that she could fit her research interests into a final paper topic for my course.

Although she has only been in school for about a month and a half at this point, she already has a ton of primary material on her research. This student has been digging deep, and with no methodological or research training, she has taken the long road to find a lot of this stuff. It quickly becomes clear to me that she needs some instruction in theory and methodology stat, because she is a runaway train. So I suggest some resources she may want to use (search tips, library resources, etc). In the meantime, I photocopy maybe half a dozen relevant articles for her.

At my next office hours the next week, she comes in to see me. She has accessed ALL of the resources I have suggested, and more besides. I give her the articles.

About a week and a half later, she has read all of the articles, and asks if she can come see me during my office hours to discuss them.

This goes on and on. Every week, she's amazing me.

Did I mention she's a single mother who commutes?
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baphd1996
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« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2009, 11:10:20 AM »

I would like to congratulate those who have posted victories!  Nice Job!
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You're all wrong!
anon4now
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« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2009, 11:18:47 AM »

The set up:

First year student, taking my intro course, comes to see me after class to discuss ways that she could fit her research interests into a final paper topic for my course.

Although she has only been in school for about a month and a half at this point, she already has a ton of primary material on her research. This student has been digging deep, and with no methodological or research training, she has taken the long road to find a lot of this stuff. It quickly becomes clear to me that she needs some instruction in theory and methodology stat, because she is a runaway train. So I suggest some resources she may want to use (search tips, library resources, etc). In the meantime, I photocopy maybe half a dozen relevant articles for her.

At my next office hours the next week, she comes in to see me. She has accessed ALL of the resources I have suggested, and more besides. I give her the articles.

About a week and a half later, she has read all of the articles, and asks if she can come see me during my office hours to discuss them.

This goes on and on. Every week, she's amazing me.

Did I mention she's a single mother who commutes?

Awesome, grassy:  grad school for this one, and as much fellowship support as we can find for her along the way, eh?  May all blessings of lotus rain upon your antennae!
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frog111
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« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2009, 12:37:45 PM »

In my intro physics course, I have several Navy or ex-Navy students.  We were discussing capacitors, just basic theory, when one student said it reminded her of the fuel system on a certain aircraft.  When I explained how it probably worked, with equations, measurements needed , etc, suddenly the class realized two things.  First, that physics is relevant to their work, and second the professor is not just a physics geek, but actually explain how thinsg work.

The discussion was great, and from then on, others would find the connections each week. 
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llanfair
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« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2009, 7:23:54 PM »

These stories are wonderful! So far, no real light-bulb moments in my class this term, but a lot of engagement from previously-drowsy kids who thought they didn't like History.  Turns out they do, and some can't stop asking questions now.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2009, 7:24:14 PM by llanfair » Logged

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bioteacher
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Confused and sad. Or happy. I'm not sure...


« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2009, 7:33:51 PM »

I had a victory today. Setting: Introductory biology. Large lecture hall, mostly freshmen. The honeymoon ended after the first exam, they considered divorce after the second exam... I'm now the evil witch who is out to ruin their 4.0. You all know the drill.

I spend the 1st half of the course building and powering cells. The 2nd half is all about plants and animals. We bounce back and forth between them. (they hate that, too!) Plant structure, animal structure. Plant transport, animal circulatory system. Today was plant responses to environmental cues.

They hate plants. In the mind of the typical freshman, plants are boring. Hard. Irrelevant. And not on the MCAT. My mission is to convince them that plants can be interesting, too! Talk about an uphill battle!

Today, I was talking about plants responding to touch. Typical yawns, glassy eyes. I showed a video of a Mimosa leaf closing. Suddenly, I had students going "no way!" and "cool!" Several ooohs and ahs in the room. They had no idea plants moved, much less that quickly. Hey, I'll play to a crowd. I quickly pulled up my video of a sundew (carnivorous plant) wrapping around and trapping the stupid caterpillar. And then the video of the Venus fly trap closing around a fly, and then a frog (who escaped).

I saw students making connections to climbing plants with their wrapping tendrils and what we were talking about. I saw nods of recognition when I mentioned other things about plants they might have seen. Then we talked about how plants can "figure out" which way is up when you plant the seed/bulb upside down. They'd never considered it before. For a few minutes --a very few short, precious minutes --I had them eating out of my hand.

So rare. So special. It was great while it lasted.
But it sure felt good.


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