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Topic: Frustrations

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Subject:   RE: Frustrations
Author: Alan Cooper
Date: May 2 2004
Thank you Alice for doing what you do and for sharing your encouraging
experience. I hope jon takes heart.

Many college teachers, like me, whine about the difficulty of getting students
to think for themselves,
so it's great to have teachers like you out there getting them on-side. We
aren't always as successful as you in getting them to change, but when it does
work, it is wonderful.

Actually though, one of my favourite course evaluation comments was a negative
one "I don't like this teacher because he makes us think" (This student may not
have got with the program, but at least (s)he got the message!)

Keep it up.

On Apr 09, 2004, Alice wrote:

Hi Jon,
You ask a great question. It's difficult to get kids who have been spoon fed to

I spend the first month or two or three of school trying to get my students to
try exploring situations. Whatever math course I teach,from math 7 through
calculus,  I force students who want to pass to attempt exploring by lavishly
rewarding  even small successes with points.  
They balk at first, some even diplomatically suggest that I "talk to ____ to see
how he begins each class with an explanation of how to do it..."
 I insist on their exploring in order to pass my course, (It took us six class
periods the first time we did group poster graphs in pre-calculus to get
replicas of the 6 sine, cosine etc graphs. (jigsaw method,all at once, But they
felt so great when we posted their research results!)

By the end of the year, almost all students swear by this method!!! The same
kids now took one day to graph polar trig graphs, like cardiodiods and
(My students also know they now remember the math well, and don't have to cram
before tests to pass them)

We had parent night a couple of nights ago, and kids proudly explained to their
parents "this is the teacher who made the course a challenge! I now know that I
can ask questions of myself and solve problems...."
It happens every year.

(I'd also like to add that I send a letter home with my intentions the beginning
of the school year, with a request for parental help as "cheerleader" when the
kids find the work tough. That helps too.)

At first the kids will rebel, but I know it works well, so I don't give in. I
also explain that they will do better in college if they struggle to learn now,
while they are still home and have family to reassure them.

Good luck!

 On Apr 07, 2004, jon wrote:

..., I would LOVE to teach like this, and I'm glad to hear that your students
are getting something out of this, rather than rotely learning the material.
But, as I am still a pre-service teacher, how might I ask do you get your
students to WANT to explore such interesting situations rather than be taught
procedures.  This is really the heart of the Japanese ethos or philosophy on
education, that the students are trained to explore and in doing so, learn how
to apply the procedures.


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