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Tried something different

Hi there,

As I have said earlier I teach undergraduate Genetics recitation. The format of the class is that there is one problem assigned for each class which is listed on the syllabus. The students should have worked out the problem before hand (Ideally speaking Of Course) or if they do not understand it I will help them with it. For weeks I was just doing the problem for them largely because nobody ever looked at it. After asking and explaining to students that it is in their best interest to have read and at least attempt to solve the assigned problem for recitation I finally tried something different. I put the problem on the blackboard and just sat down in my chair. I basically said that I am not giving any answers until somebody at least comes and attempts to setup the problem and try to solve it. Two students left and after a couple of minutes somebody finally got up and tried to do it. The students also tried to help the volunteer to solve the problem. I plan to do this for every class onwards. Is this being too harsh? Asking for too much perhaps? I don’t think it is, these are bio-majors usually about juniors to seniors in college. By now they should be able to handle only one problem assigned in advance at the beginning of the semester. So what are your thoughts??

Best,

Uday

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4 comments to Tried something different

  • Naomi Adiv

    I like it. A little discomfort is ok. As long as no one is being shamed or taunted — you’re just asking them to do what you have assigned.

    (Also: two students LEFT? Wow.)

    • I hope nobody felt taunted. I just said I am not giving out anymore answers, if you want them you have to come get them and at least try.
      Two students did get up and leave. I figured if I gave in right there, they will never take me seriously.

  • I’m also a little puzzled about the two students that left…

    Uday, I don’t think this is harsh at all! And it’s a tactic that’s going to lead to more active learning. Can’t wait to hear how it goes if you keep doing this regularly.

  • I agree–I don’t think this is harsh at all. I understand that feeling though, that you feel you may be pushing too hard. For one of my classes I felt I was doing the same thing, so I prepared a pop quiz that could only be answered if they read the book. I went through and “popcorned” the first question, where I asked the students to tell me one thing they learned from the question while I randomly and rapidly called on them. I had two students who hadn’t read at all and said so; I thanked them for their honesty and made it clear that it would be reflected in their participation grade. I didn’t have to give the pop quiz, but I made it clear by physically showing it to them all that it was ready and copied and awaiting distribution if they felt that discussion wasn’t necessary that day.

    Can’t wait to hear how it works out!