Or at least teach it effectively?
When students fail en masse, should teachers reconsider the format of the class and how they are teaching the content?
I have talked to teachers who have thrown out the pacing guide after realizing their students are unprepared and require a more fundamental approach to the material. Of course, going back to basics means the students may not be ready for the end-of-the-year exams in the class.
A college professor takes up this issue in a thoughtful blog this week. I am sharing part of it here as she poses questions that most teachers have probably asked themselves at some point in their careers.
I would love to hear the answers.
In “Stories from the Front (of the Classroom),” religious studies professor Kate Blanchard writes she gave a mid-term exam with high hopes as the class had been progressing well and the students seemed to get it. But the average score on the mid-term test was a low D.
Blanchard writes: (Please read her full blog before commenting. This is only an excerpt.)
If there had been at least a handful of A’s, I would have worried less. An extremely high percentage of students in my classes are there to fulfill a humanities requirement; they aren’t necessarily interested in religion, and they hope it will be an easy course. These students don’t expect to work much and a bad mid-term grade can be a useful wake-up call. But when even the most engaged students can’t break a low B, it’s clear that something is amiss at my end of things.
A professor I admire says his teaching philosophy is to have high expectations for his students; expect the best of them and they will never fail to give it to you. So I continue to require (what I hear is) “a lot” of reading in my intro courses, because I am trying to set the bar high and let them rise to the occasion. I also don’t spoon-feed them information in bullet points; although I occasionally stand and use slides, I usually sit and lead discussions about the readings… in which I often end up doing most of the talking. Most of them sit slack-jawed and take few notes, but some answer questions or make comments.
The question for you, dear readers, is: What do I do now? Do I “dumb down” the class… Do I just plow ahead with my current plans, knowing some of them will fail or drop out, while hoping others will be inspired to work harder? I have seven more weeks to get them to want to learn something. What would an excellent teacher do?