Nov 062016

In my last post, Why I won’t use Direct Instruction, I was provocative and challenged some of the typical thinking about math instruction. The post generated some terrific conversation, both here and on Twitter, and although I have not changed my mind for my own classroom use, I do admit there may be times when DI has a function and purpose.

The grad class I am in has moved on, which is how classes work, and we are discussion Cooperative teaching this week. The textbook is very focused on English and Social Studies, which leaves the math and science people out a bit, but it does discuss the Jigsaw lesson plan at some length. The Jigsaw is a good strategy, and it is useful in math class for sure, but there are so many others!

To create a better list, I asked the #MTBoS for their favorites. I won’t embed all the tweets, but will give attribution to every person who submitted and idea or link in the idea. I want to feature the lesson plan ideas and the links to them. I have not used all of these. Heck, I don’t think I have used half of these! But the collection is amazing, and although some of the ideas don’t have details, you can figure out the idea from the names of some.

The really nice thing is that these are all cooperative lesson strategies from math teachers for math teachers. If you want some ideas on how to incorporate these well tested strategies, here you go:

  1. Speed dating: Me! @gwaddellnvhs, Mary-Ellen @MathSparkles; This was one of the two I suggested. I really like this method of getting learners collaborating with a purpose.
  2. Add it up or Placemats or 4Sum or Add ’em up: Me! @gwaddellnvhs; Heather Kohn @heather_kohn; S @reilly1041; Kate Nowak@k8nowak; This is another strategy I offered in my original question. I think I got it from Kate originally, forgot the name, and then called it Placemats because of a way to set it up using butcher paper. Same idea, different names.
  3. Participation Quiz or Partner Quizzes: Martin Joyce @martinsean; Rachel @Seestur ; Used these often. Very engaging way to get everyone focused. The tricky part is creating the teams for the quiz, but that is achievable.
  4. Clipboard of quotes & actions that support each other. Update whiteboard, then go over: Martin Joyce @martinsean
  5. Whiteboard Game: Lisa Bejarano @lisabej_manitou
  6. Problems around the room: Lisa Bejarano @lisabej_manitou
  7. Also a big fan of whiteboards where students keep answers secret and then they All “flash” at the same time: Mary-Ellen @MathSparkles
  8. Pass the Pen: Madelyne Bettis @Mrs_Bettis
  9. Work on the Wall: Madelyne Bettis @Mrs_Bettis
  10. Ss work prob on board while 2nd Ss “calls” it like a baseball announcer: Mary Williams @merryfwilliams, The boys get into it with the Bob Costas enthusiastic voice, “and he is STRIKING OUT LADIES AND GENTLEMAN!!” Most of the time they are really positive though – all the sports enthusiasts enjoy announcing 🙂
  11. Ghosts in the Graveyard: Mary Williams @merryfwilliams
  12. Sage and Scribe: Briana Guzman @brianalguzman
  13. Quiz Quiz Trade: Briana Guzman @brianalguzman
  14. There can be only one (marker): Nathaniel Highstein @nhighstein
  15. Having round tables in the classroom: Rachel @Seestur Rachel really enjoys having the round tables so learners have to look at each other while working. It makes total sense to me!
  16. Tarsia Puzzles: Sheri Walker @SheriWalker72; Paula Torres @Lohstorres1; In case you don’t know what Tarsia puzzles are, Tarsia is a FREE software package to make puzzles out of sets of problems. They are really cool, and when you require them to be worked in partners, can be a great way to incorporate cooperative learning in a different way.
  17. Card Sorts: Beth Ferguson @algebrasfriend; Card sorts have been around a while, and they are highly effective. I used them in AP Stats as well as algebra. Desmos recently incorporated card sorts into the Activity builder, so you can get awesome electronic card sorts now too!
  18. Row Games: Kate Nowak  @k8nowak; Beth Ferguson @algebrasfriend; I have used Row Games too. The best part is the link takes you to a folder owned by Kate that has 3 pages of mostly word docs of teacher created games. This means you can edit and change them to make them better for your class! Also, it would be awesome if you shared back your creations to help others.

Additionally, David Wees tweeted out the following people, but didn’t give more info. I suggest contacting them directly for more information.

David later did followup with this link to TEDD (Teacher Education by Design). I poked around their site. Looks promising!

Amy Lucenta also was kind enough to let us know her ideas are found in her book from Heinemann Publishers.

I hope this helps, and if you have any other cooperative learning ideas, drop them in the comments please!

Oct 162016

This post is born out of a PhD class I am taking called “Models of Teaching.” It is a great class, but one of the requirements early in the semester was to write how I would use direct instruction in my classroom. I refused. I wrote a lengthy screed against DI. I attacked it, aggressively. What you have here is an edited, cleaned up, and less aggressive post born out of that assignment.


As a first year teacher, I was explicitly told by a principal to use direct instruction. He very carefully outlined what he expected any class to look like, and what the learners should be doing at every stage, every minute.

When that year was over, I left that school without a second thought. To deprofessionalize teaching to such a degree that someone could outline any class, any day, any lesson to the minute is reprehensible and borders on educational malpractice.

If you get the sense from this that I do not value direct instruction very highly; good.

I mean, really. Look at the way people think about education and specifically math ed. I think using comics as indicators is a great idea, because comics take a shared experience and pokes fun at it. Comics make us laugh through the pain, and there is a lot of pain in education.

Baldo, I cant believe school starts tomorrow

At the younger grades, we definitely see excitement for learning, but at some point, we beat that excitement out of kids. Why? This is a question I have asked repeatedly here, but I think DI has a lot to do with it. I mean, DI is a common way to teach math, as well as other subjects. Can we blame learners if they are bored, frustrated, and unexcited about classrooms that are taught through DI? And they are all 3.

math class is like a 40 foot long colon

Really? The punch line in this Baby Blues makes me cry. Literally. This is what the general public finds funny about math class?! But it isn’t just these comics. It goes on. And on.


The common theme of memorizing is so frustrating.


I am not advocating for “learn what you want” or unschooling, but certainly we can figure out ways to build in learner interests, right?


And DI just take us to the point repeatedly. “Oh, you weren’t paying attention while I was sharing what you were supposed to be learning? That is your problem, not mine.”

dennis-the-menace-back-to-the-salt-mines  dennis-the-menace-principal-not-warden

Yea, nothing more needs to be said here. Sigh. These were published in October. Of 2016. These are current. It makes it just that much more sad.


This Zits comic pretty much sums up the idea of Direct Instruction for me. It is clear that Jeremy (the teenager) has teachers who use DI pretty much the entire day. He is just consuming the knowledge of the teacher, puking it back for the test, and starting over each day.


And this focus on memorizing, and storing the teacher’s knowledge leaves learners doing what Paige Fox is doing here. Focus on the test, not learning. As long as the test comes out okay at the end, then all is good. Same issue Calvin had above.

But my objection to DI goes beyond the fact that it creates a horrible perception of classrooms. The philosophical underpinnings of direct instruction follow from Behaviorism and the work of B.F. Skinner.  Skinner, in his book “The Technology of Teaching” introduced wonderful machines that replaced teachers. In the behaviorist world, teaching is only necessary to introduce proper conditioning, and you do not need professionals to create those behaviors. Machines, called appropriately enough, “Teaching Machines” can replace teachers wholesale.

teaching machines by skinnerJust read the question, mark the response, check the response to the key, move a lever left if correct and right if wrong. Finish the lesson and repeat until they are all correct. This is the legitimate end result of behaviorism and the deprofessionalization of teaching. We see it in such sites as Con, er, Khan Academy, where the boring and mistake prone  lectures are used to give a false impression of learning. This kind of approach to teaching and learning is why at least one US Senator has suggested doing away with college professors and just have students watch Ken Burns videos to learn about the Civil War. Not joking. This is real. This is the direct benefactor of behaviorism.

In short, there is not enough alcohol to burn this chapter from my memory. [I leave this sentence in here from the assignment for a reason. Yes, I really did turn this sentence in, but also because it shows just how strongly I feel about this issue.]

These are harsh words. I freely admit that. I have very few, if any, kind things to say about direct instruction. I stopped teaching this way after my second year in the mathematics classroom. I would never go back, nor would I ever try to teach this way again.

It is painfully boring for the learners, and it is equally painful for the teacher. The fact it is completely ineffective to teach or learn higher order processes and skills makes it doubly not worth using.

Direct Instruction is the worst of all teaching methods, and continuing to use it just reinforces the boring nature of what learning can be. It doesn’t have to be that way! It really doesn’t.

When I write lessons, whether it was for high school or for the college classes I am teaching now, I start each lesson with these questions (replacing math with teaching now):

Am I:

–Assisting learners in creating THEIR own math understanding?


Forcing learners to curate and consume MY math understanding?

My goal is clear. I want every learner to move beyond my understanding quickly and efficiently. That can’t happen with DI. DI is a way to force learners to store my knowledge and understanding.

And, we need to figure out ways to stop asking learners to store our knowledge and instead celebrate their own. There are many constructivist teaching models. We need to use them. Find two or three that resonate with you and practice them. And then, celebrate the accomplishments of learning for more than 2 seconds.

Calvin is sad for a reason.


Aug 242016

#BlAugust is going strong so far. I am digging the morning writing for sure.


Yesterday I was taking a moment after work to look at my Twitter feed and I saw this hashtag #ObserveMe with a picture of a sign outside a classroom. It was this pic.  (you can click on any picture to make embiggen them if you want to see the details.)

observeme pic 1

I know it was this picture, because it is without a number in my folder. I got excited! How powerful is this one simple sign. It tells every person walking in the room that you WANT their feedback. You want them to come into your room. You want them to talk to learners, to watch their interaction, and to give you feedback.

How amazingly powerful.

I followed the hashtag, and found out it was started by Robert Kaplinsky. I am not surprised. It is a powerful statement of changing classroom culture.  Here are some more examples I thought were just amazing.

ObserveMe 3  ObserveMe 5  ObserveMe 7

Notice the statement of what classes are taught when. That way any teacher can chose what topic to watch, or they know what topic to expect as they walk in. I also love the QR code connected to a google form. I scanned them. They work. Finally, the third picture has both a QR code for electronic data collection as well as the forms right there next to the code for ease of use. There is no excuse not to give feedback in Ms. Rani’s classroom.

But how does this change culture?

You cannot be a teacher who shuts their door and ignores the world with this hanging outside your room. You are inviting the world in.

But you are not just inviting the world in, you are asking the world to look for specific things; questioning techniques, understanding, engagement, interaction, problem solving, and ‘teacher as facilitator’ are all things mentioned.

You are asking the world to talk to your learners. You are asking the world to thoughtfully think about the classroom environment, and to evaluate what is going on in your classroom.

How powerful.

But, flip this around. What does it tell the LEARNERS who are passing this sign on the way into your room?

The learners know that at anytime, anyone could be walking in to look for these things. It tells the learners that these are activities or behaviors that you think are important. It tells the learners that you value being a “facilitator” not a “lecturer” and that you are holding yourself accountable for those values. (Yes, Ms. Garner I am calling you out on that because I love it so much.)

We also should not be stagnant on what we look for. As the semester continues, the ‘look fors’ must change and adapt as well. The #ObserveMe flyer in the window below makes that explicit.

ObserveMe 6  ObserveMe 4

Okay, I am in love with this idea and am sharing it widely.

BUT, how can I apply this to my work at the University?

If I just talk about it in class, then who cares. With that in mind, I have put together draft 1 of my sign.


It will definitely get the QR code treatment. I will have to remember to put it up and take it down every class. Wouldn’t that really freak out some professor who didn’t see it there and someone walks into their room to observe them.

I also have two other Master Teachers in the program to sell in the idea who will be in the room with me. I don’t mind throwing myself under the bus, but I won’t throw them without their permission.

I just figure, if I am going to talk about this at the University level to my preservice teachers, I better be willing to walk the walk if I am going to talk the talk.

What do you think? Are my goals reasonable?

Aug 232016

#BlAugust Continues with my Knowing and Learning posts


I was sitting down this morning at 7:30 to do today’s post, and I was stymied. What to write, what to write? So I opened Twitter for inspiration and Christopher Danielson had re-tweeted this:


Okay, it is on. I read the article (found here) and immediately thought of my Knowing and Learning readings (week 4) on B.F. Skinner and his “Teaching Machines.”

If you need a refresher on Skinner’s ideas, you can read the book in it’s entirety (please don’t, gag) or you can just read this one picture that sums up the entire chapter in a gut wrenching caption.

teaching machines by skinner

That’s right! There is your video that Sen. Ron Johnson referred to! You see, this isn’t a new idea to replace teachers with that “one good teacher” and have the learners then rewind and redo the material until they get it right.

On the Nature v. Nuture discussion, Skinner falls on the nurture side, but it is a nurture grounded firmly in behaviorism. While educators of the constructivist philosophy threw up a little in their mouths upon reading the words of Mr. Johnson, the behaviorists celebrated. They have been saying this since 1957, and the philosophical underpinnings of the approach are as solid as Piaget or Pappert.

We can see this thread of education going strong in Mr. Johnson’s remarks, but also in the gobs of money thrown at Kahn Academy. His original, poorly done, math videos were celebrated as the pinnacle of education. Well, the pinnacle of behaviorist teaching machines, at least. “Look, when the learner doesn’t understand something, the response is not correct, and they can just work around the disk again, er, I mean, they can rewind the video.”

I think it is very important for teachers to come out of college knowing that these statements by people like Mr. Johnson, and movements like Kahn’s have a history. A history of failure, but also of enough success that they just won’t die.

And there is a time and place for behaviorism in teaching math. But the extremes that Skinner, Kahn, Mr. Johnson, and others take it to is ridiculous.


[And, as an aside, yes. these are my opinions. This blog has my name in the URL, and I am unabashedly a constructivist teacher. This wasn’t always true, but I learned better.]

Aug 182016

Continuing on the #BlAugust train! Yay.


To help set the stage for the Big Questions of Knowing and Learning, I will be using the results from this survey. I asked on Twitter for teachers to take it, and it will be required for my learners to take it. (Same questions, but a different set of instructions and explanations on the prompts.)

I will take the results from this survey to juxtapose their responses so we can evaluate what it means to Know, to Learn, and to Believe.

For example, looking at the teacher responses from Twitter, we can see that the teachers mostly all agreed that “Nurture” had the largest impact on ACT, SAT, and AP Scores. Notice, however, the difference between asking about “Success in AP Calculus” and “Success in Science”.

calc  science

Notice all the “3” responses in Science? Those responses are interesting. For whatever reason, the exact same teachers who responded to this survey thought that “Nuture” is more responsible for success in AP Calc than it is for Success in Science. Or, rather, there were more teachers who weren’t sure if “Nuture” was as responsible as “Nature” so they selected a neutral response.

That is interesting. That brings up the immediate question of Why?

Juxtaposing these type of responses on the first day with college learners will give even more variety of responses (at least I hope the responses are varied.)

Also, look at the responses to these questions.


It makes sense that teachers would be almost identical in responses to these two questions, but I am hoping for a more varied response to the question from college students.

Using their own responses will be a common theme in the course. Each day they will have to enter their reading responses into a google form. This allows me to read their responses quickly, sort and categorize them, and then select items for discussion in class that afternoon.

In addition, I will be using the Annenberg Learner video called “A Private Universe”.  If you have not seen the first video on the page, do so. The video is dated (1980’s) but it is well worth the 20 minutes.

The video starts with the interviewer asking questions at a Harvard graduation about why there are seasons, and then moves into the classroom to uncover learner’s misconceptions.

This is a wonderful video to show my learners how even though teachers may think they have taught something, the learners don’t know correct things or didn’t learn correct things from the teaching.

How do we Know? How do we Learn? [which ends up at How do we Teach?]

The main projects  in the class are two Clinical Interviews, and a deeply, well thought out lesson plan.

Along the way, we dive into the different theories of knowing and learning, so the learners can select one for their own lesson plan and utilize it well.

So, the first day will involve discussion about their own ideas, discussion comparing them (novices) to experts (teachers), interviewing clinically (A Private Universe), and a closure with ….


Not sure.

I have not done closures on this type of material before.

A simple written reflection seems too … blase? standard? uninspired? Yes. Uninspired.

I need to think deeply about closures, next.


Aug 172016

Another #BlAugust post. Staying strong on building the habit of writing in the morning.


I finished my syllabus for Knowing and Learning. I have all the questions written for each reading section (a huge thanks goes out to Walter Stroup at UT Austin for his course site that has his questions on the readings).

The only thing left are the daily activities, and I don’t feel the pressure to have those 100% nailed down for the entire semester before it starts. I would like to, but I won’t.

Here is how I envision the semester.

  1. I will use the Canvas course site from the University to host all of the readings. There are 69 readings on the syllabus right now, all PDF files.
  2. I will create (as in I have not done this yet) a google form for each day, and each form will have the questions for each set of readings. The form will be linked to from the course site. This way, I can receive the comments, answers, and thoughts of the learners in the class before the class is held. I can then use some quotes and response trends to spark and drive the conversation in class.
  3. Each class period will have 5 points associated with it. Submitting the responses and participating in class is how the 5 points will be earned.
  4. Each class will have both small and whole group discussion as we build the knowledge of the different theories of knowing and learning.

What I still need to do:

  1. Build activities that will cement the understanding of the readings and make the theories more understandable.
  2. Figure out a strong way to close the lessons each day. Closure is an essential element of good teaching, and I am not confident I have thought about closure yet.
  3. Re-read each article deeply before each class so I am ready to guide the conversation. This is an ongoing issue, but it is one that must occur!

If you want to take a look at my syllabus, please feel free. The file is: NVTC 201MW Syllabus. The only thing I don’t have in the syllabus is the citations for the different readings. I have them all in PDF form, but have not gone through and cited them yet. YET. I guess that is something to add to the list above.

Any feedback? Am I missing a pivotal reading in the Theory of Ed? Do you have a favorite that is better than one I selected?

Thank you for any thoughts!

Aug 112016

#BlAugust Continues strong! Creating a habit of writing is something I need to work on both professionally and personally, so this challenge is definitely useful to me. Thank you Shelli!


Wow, I have earned my second Star of the Week from Meg Craig! Awesome!

Stars of The Week

As I was getting ready this morning, I had a thought. (Hey, you. In the peanut gallery, pipe down. 🙂 )

Yes, I had a thought. I realized that over the last 4 weeks, I had not once asked myself the question of whether I am the “right person for the job” when it comes to building the Knowing and Learning course.

Not once.

I was presented with the challenge, I said yes, and I just went to work on it. No questions asked.

It is a huge amount of work. I have 30 books checked out of the library, and I have a folder with around 70 articles in it right now. I have read them all, and have re-read them as I am building daily questions, and working on how the structure and flow of the class.

But not once have I sat there wondering “are they crazy for asking me to do this?”

I asked myself that a lot when I was in business. I asked, “Am I the right person for this? Am I capable?”

That impostor syndrome is so deadly. I have asked myself that a couple of time times as I have been working on the PhD. I got over it quickly, but I still wondered.

Not once about this.

And I realized something. It is because I love this. I love the philosophy and the thinking. I love the teaching and the maths. I am doing something I love.

Thanks Christopher. You were absolutely right.

Every day when I pick up my phone, his words ring through to me.

2015-09-30 13.08.00

Find what you love. Do more of it.* He said “that” but I was character limited, so I shortened it to “it.”

A daily reminder. Do more.

When you are doing what you love, you KNOW you are the right person. You may not always know how to accomplish the goals, you may not know everything you need to know, but you know that you are the person to learn those things and do those things you need.

No question about it.

This was a great thought to have today. It is my 47th birthday.


*If you want to watch the video of his speech at TMC15, the video is available on Youtube. It is in two parts, “Math from the Heart.”

Aug 092016

I missed two days of #BlAugust, but I don’t feel bad. I took Sunday off on purpose, and was so frustrated with how my course planning was going I spent until 6:15pm at my office working on it last night. Grrr. But I made some strong headway.


I sat down yesterday with Walter Stroup’s (University of Texas, Austin) plan for Knowing and Learning, my plan (which is based on his plan), the readings in order in my directory, the questions I had identified from the readings as important, the calendar of courses with the readings listed, and ….

Oh what fresh hell is this.

So many important pieces of information, all in different tabs, different files, different folders. I seriously sat there after and hour and asked myself why I was making it so complicated.

Einstein - make it simple no simpler

I was NOT making it simple. I was making it far more complicated than it needed to be.

So I sat at the computer, with my two different Word planning docs, two different tabs open, two different folders of files, and collapsed it all into ONE document and ONE folder.

Now, this is what my planning document looks like.


1b is the second meeting in week 1, (1a is the first meeting in week 1), the topic of the class, the questions the learners will respond to, and the readings are all listed.

In my folder, the names are 1b Lehman Behind the SAT and 1b Atkinson Reflections on admissions tests.

Next up, these questions will be put into a google form, and each class day will have a google form that must be responded to prior to class (I am making the deadline by 12am the night before). This will allow me to read the responses all together in one document so I can get a gauge of the variety of thought before class.

It will also allow me to pull quotes for class for discussion, elaboration, and development of the ideas without putting a name to the quote. I can also change some words so the learner does not recognize their own words, that way they don’t say “Hey that is me.”

At this point, I have almost every single day blocked out like this. There are 6 days I am diverging form Stroup’s plan pretty solidly this first year. I have to go through those readings, and reduce the number. One day, right now, I have 9 different articles listed. LOL. No way that will be able to happen.

Keep it simple, but no simpler. I lost sight of this as I was thinking about calendars, readings, questions, progression, and development of ideas.

I am back on that simple routine, and can now refocus the efforts on those ideas. Amazing how having everything in one document helps.

So why did I veer off into confusion land? Because the syllabus needs to be in one format, but my planning needs to have more columns, for one. Now I realize I should plan in the more columns format and just delete columns, copy and paste for the calendar and syllabus.

Keep it simple. I can do that. (now)

Always remember to plan ahead

Aug 062016

Keeping up the #BlAugust posts! Yay. Weekends are harder to do.


Yesterdays post where I questioned my skills and abilities in questioning created two comments. Both of them helped me directly shape the focus of what I am doing in this class. First, @Druinok suggested I get a hold of some of the AVID materials, check out Making Thinking Visible, and think about Socratic Seminars as a structure to the course.

Bust of Socrates from wikimedia

I love that idea! Socratic Seminars (SS) give a great structure and fit neatly with the ideas and goals I have for the course. But, some resources to fall back on and refer to regularly would be helpful. With a little google work, I found these that I plan on using in one form or another.

Facing History ( has a good page on SS, the rational, the process, etc. I like this page for its simplicity of thought. It is clear and directs me to the info I need.

Next up, from, a 4 page PDF on how to begin, manage, and work within the structure of SS. This is a detailed document, but not so detailed that it can’t be used as a quick reference in the middle of the semester when I will need it.

Next up, a 31 page PDF from AVID*on how to run Socratic Seminars! Wow. If you need some detailed instruction in SS, this is the document for you. I found a lot of valuable tips and techniques in it. This document has teacher advice, learner advice, black line masters, etc.

Finally, a 1 page poster PDF for learners on the rules of SS. I am not sure if I will actually use this info yet. I may just discuss it, and not hand it out.

The other comment from Andrew reminded me that even though the skills of teaching math are not transferable, the PROCESS I used to learn how to teach math is still in play, and that process is what I will need to focus on over the next couple of weeks.

Thank you Andrew and DruinOK. You both helped me tremendously. I appreciate it greatly!

*The star is because Avid doesn’t like to share. I received the DCMA request (they didn’t even have the courtesy to leave a comment or communicate with me) to remove the file.

I did. They suck. Here is their lawyer speak for everyone to read.

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Aug 052016

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.

climbing the hill

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.