Hitting number 5 for #BlAugust on the 5th of August. Excellent. So far so good!
Transitioning from teaching mathematics to teaching theory is difficult. Not because of the content, that is just reading and understanding what I read. No, it is difficult because of how I define teaching.
Telling isn’t teaching. I decided a long time ago that I was a constructivist teacher, and so to get learners to understand the meanings of mathematics and practice the skills of solving, decomposing, composing and all of the other essential practices of good algebra, all I had to do was practice questioning techniques and direct my questions towards the goals and standards I was teaching.
I read books like the Princples to Actions, 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Math Conversations, and Mathematical Mindsets. Moving into other deeper books on questioning like The Art of Problem Posing, or Powerful Problem Solving just extended those skills and allowed me to become a good math teacher.
There are no standards for Educational Theory (although I have other professors syllabi from other programs.)
There are no books to teach me how to teach Educational Theory (yea, I looked.)
Shoot. Now what. I feel like this.
This course has no skills to practice (good writing is a skill, of course, but there are no skills to practice for the course alone). This course is a purely theoretical knowledge course. Out of the theory, the learners will be able to place themselves into a tradition, and develop skills within the traditions. But, … I am faced with a conundrum.
How to teach what could easily be a lecture course, pure and simple, without falling into the easy trap of creating ppt slides from the readings and going over them?
To keep myself from doing this, I have not allowed myself to even open PowerPoint. The only docs I have open are Word planning docs and the pdfs of the readings.
Good, step 1 complete: Define the boundaries.
Step 2: what is the goal of each day? What do I want the learners to walk out the door after 1.25 hours knowing?
Step 3: What questions am I going to ask prior to class to focus the learners on the readings?
Step 4: What questions will I ask in class to elicit deeper understandings of the readings and prompt discussion?
Step 5: What activities will we do in class that reinforce the readings and create deeper understanding of the material?
As I look at the list, I realize something. Were I doing this course as a lecture course, the list would not change at all. The exact same steps, questions, and problems would be there for doing a lecture class as a more involved, engaging, discussion course.
Doing this process has given me a much better appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into teaching a theory course. No wonder the philosophy courses I took in grad school (the first time) were taught off of copies of copies of notes. Once you go through all this effort to develop questions and activities you don’t want to change them.
Is that really an excuse? I don’t believe so, but it is an explanation.
I am through the third day with steps 2 and 3. I have some activities in mind as well. But, with respect to step 4 I am at a total loss still. I need to know my learners better, but I can’t go in cold.
This is tough, but so much fun.
But I am not sure or confident that the questioning skills I have spent the last 9 years practicing apply here.