or how not to use a SCALE-UP classroom
With the primary instructor out of town, I was left to teach my first full class period in our SCALE-UP classroom. I was confident in the material and had no qualms about presenting it but I wasn’t sure quite how to involve the students. I, despite my best efforts, lectured to them.
First off, the material was DRY. Seriously. We first talked about electron configurations in atoms [1s2 2s2 2p3, anybody?], then how these electrons interacted and created bonds between particles and finally wound up with how one might discern a physical property from these bonding types. There was a LITTLE bit of success when I asked them to talk among themselves about σ (electrical conductivity) as well as strength, but I wouldn’t consider it an incredibly useful discussion. It took… two minutes. Not sure that counts as a problem-based learning exercise.
But then I tried for one. I had thought about it ahead of time, made this fancy little graphic [actual science content – warning!]. I asked the students to come up with some geometrical terms that might be used to describe the picture below. I prompted them with a few – how deep was the well? how symmetrical were the halves? how quickly did it change direction? – only after I saw they had no idea what I was asking about the first time.
Not surprisingly, the three answers I gave them were indeed THE answers. But what physical properties might the correspond to? Dead silence. Nobody had any idea. The exercise had flopped. So I guess I learned a few things.
- One instructor is NOT sufficient to facilitate conversation with 120 students. Not that there was much conversation… but if there had been I certainly would not have been able to structure any degree of it.
- PBL (Problem Based Learning) in the future is going to require very specific prompts. I think what I asked them to do was more of a suggestion. Handouts (or even physical words on the chalkboard or overhead) would have provided better direction.
- The dryer the material the more effective an example like this is. But dang, it’s got to be a better example than this one!
Live and learn, right? That’s what the education process is about. Speaking of education… who wants a quiz? Of the above, which has the highest Tm? highest stiffness? highest strength? Lowest CTE? Answers: ˙ssǝuɟɟıʇs ʇsǝɥbıɥ :q ˙ǝʇɔ ʇsǝʍoן :ɔ ˙ʇuıod buıʇןǝɯ puɐ ɥʇbuǝɹʇs ʇsǝɥbıɥ :p