Lecture Course Motherfucking Pedagogy
February 24, 2009
Sciecewoman has an interesting post up in which she seeks advice on the question of pacing of large lecture courses:
I’m struggling with pacing in my introductory class this semester. I’ll admit that I am using powerpoint, even though I’ve been told that it is evil beyond all evil. I’m sure that there are better ways to reach ~100 students at once, but I’m not sure what they are for this introductory science course.
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[H]ow do I strike the right balance between keeping class moving so as not to bore the heck out of the good students, while going slow enough that I don’t overwhelm the slow-note-takers or can’t-write-while-listening people?
Here are Comrade PhysioProf’s thoughts:
(1) The good students are the ones to focus on, as they have a chance of actually mastering the material. You are making a horrible mistake by allowing less-competent students to derail the class by indulging their requests for you to return to slides you have already covered. These less-competent students are probably never going to master the material anyway. Teach to the top 25% of your class, and the rest will just have to figure out a way to get what they can out of the course.
(2) Aiming classroom pedagogy at the top 25% of students is the correct thing to do. I’d much rather have some less-competent students have more difficulty than have some more-competent students not be given the opportunity to learn as much as possible. If they are sufficiently motivated, the less-competent students can get help from the TAs.
(3) For a one-hour lecture I generally have about ten slides. None of the slides have text on them. This means that there is no issue with students derailing lecture with complaints such as SciWo receives that they don’t have time to “copy down” text from slides.
(4) My lectures are not at all a recitation of facts for transcription and memorization. Rather, they are designed to provide the students with appropriate conceptual frameworks for understanding the facts that they should be gleaning from their textbook. The actual volume of notetaking in my lectures should be very modest. If you are giving lectures that demand large volumes of notetaking, you are doing it wrong.