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December 08, 2004

Comments

Amanda

I've noticed this too, and the one variable factor I've noticed is that if the majority of the students are past their first year awkwardness, you are likelier to get people who want to get more out of actual class time.

NancyP

Who knows? But I see the same thing in medical students in the course I team-teach with the same set of teachers year after year - one year the class is grumbling, next year class is enthusiastic.

Lawrence Krubner

The question seems similar to asking why it is that when a fire breaks out in a crowded theater the crowd will sometimes panic and sometimes not. The leading theory, as I understand it, is much depends on whether or not certain leadership types are present. In a sense, it is luck of the draw. Sometimes people with the right personalities are there, sometimes not. If you were teaching a large enough crowd, lets say a thousand people, statistical differences would probably get rounded out. With smaller groups variance, and therefore luck, plays a larger role. My own experience speaking to groups leaves me with the impression that in any group there are three types:

1.)Those who never particpate in public discussion

2.) Those who particpate only if someone else starts the conversations

3.) Those who start public conversations

You have type 1 and you may have type 2, but one of your classes is apparently lacking any of type 3.

ksteven

hey hey quiet on that teaching for free stuff.. seriously I know what you are talking about. I've taught high school science (a variety of different classes ranging from freshman general science to senior college prep physics) for 13 years. Some classes respond well to certain stories, examples, teaching strategies... and some don't, and you never really know why.

k

Hugo

Lawrence, you're right about the type 3s.... I need to sprinkle my alpha males and females about.

thisgirl

I'm with Amanda; getting past the first year awkwardness is a big factor in getting students to feel comfortable enough to contribute. I'm sure this isn't an issue with you Hugo, but in my classes we tend to respond more to teachers whom we feel respect us; although it's arguable that respect must be earned, the only way to get it from most young people is to give it.

At my college we come from mostly strict secondary schools (up to 16), so coming into an environment where you call your lecturers by their first names and talk about your personal lives with some of them over coffee really makes a difference to how much you want to be there and how much you contribute. The only class I take which is quiet (much quieter, incidentally, when I'm not there!) is my Sociology lecture, because the fairly traditional teacher keeps a lid on debate and discussion; there are unfortunately some rather bigoted students who contravene college equal opps. policy constantly.

It's all about the mix of people, and getting the balance between seriousness and jokng right, on the part of the student and the teacher. I've always found personal anecdotes help, but go too far down that road and nothing gets done!

Hugo

Oh, indeed, thisgirl -- I often have to bite back sharing too much; nothing would get done otherwise. And you are absolutely right about respect. For me, as I've written before, informality is a sign of respect for my students -- it is a way of acknowledging them as "junior peers" rather than as children.

thisgirl

That's a nice phrase, I'm going to steal that!

Students pick up all too well on those teachers who like to share stories; we exploit them mercilessly when we feel tired or over-worked, usually with the line "So, you remember that time you said...". My Psychology class record is sidetracking a teacher for 40 minutes by asking about his hobbies.

blackkoffeeblues

One of the things that I have noticed with my MBA students is that they cluster. Because our program is project/presentation heavy, students find people that they work well with and stick with them. They also seem to find out when people that they don't particularly like are scheduling classes and schedule themselves around them. I have to admit, I used to do that myself. So I end up with some classes that are really charged up and some that are just trying to keep from slapping each other.
I only teach part time but I love it. Truly, it is addicting. I don't even consider it work, its a treat. After a hard day at work, just being on campus is a stress reliever.

jenell

Within a few weeks of this semester, I had labeled one of my classes wonderful, and the other dull. I worried a bit about producing self-fulfilling expectations, but then I was surprised. The dull class 'woke up' as a result of one student taking a remarkable risk to question/probe me about my theology. It was a good dialogue that ended with the two of us still disagreeing, but it seemed to awaken other students to the possibility of meaningfully engaging in the class.

It's a crazy thing, but in a Christian college, students get more excited about theology than almost anything else. So racial injustice turns into theodicy...as well it should.

Stephanie

Now that you're only teaching *one* section of your women's class for Spring 2005, it's filling up fast! Registration hasn't even begun for much of the student body (PCC offers priority enrollment by seniority-of-units), and the current open/closed class list reads as follows:

HIST 25B - WOMEN IN AMERICAN SOCIETY

F 8:40am-12:00PM G*****, L. : 30 spaces left
TTh 8:50am-10:25am SCHWYZER, H.B.: 11 spaces left <--- !!!
MW 12:00PM-1:35 PM A*****, S : 43 spaces left
TTh 1:00PM-2:35 PM A*****,S.J. : 40 spaces left
W 6:40PM-10:00 PM G*****,L. : 30 spaces left


...Behold the power of word-of-mouth?

obeah

And for an 8:50am class, no less!

elaine

HIST 25B - WOMEN IN AMERICAN SOCIETY

F 8:40am-12:00PM G*****, L. : 30 spaces left
TTh 8:50am-10:25am SCHWYZER, H.B.: 11 spaces left <--- !!!
MW 12:00PM-1:35 PM A*****, S : 43 spaces left
TTh 1:00PM-2:35 PM A*****,S.J. : 40 spaces left
W 6:40PM-10:00 PM G*****,L. : 30 spaces left

I’d like to think I had something to do with that…

I’m definitely a raver (?), when it comes to Hugo’s classes.

Hugo

I'm honored, y'all. Perhaps it's my reputation as a thorough going pushover? My susceptability to bribery? ;-) To be fair, the time slot probably helps!

Jenell, I wish you and I could trade semesters. Just once.

Stephanie

Final "score" --

All other PCC women's classes: 29, 36, 36, and 26 available spaces, respectively.

Hugo's women's class: CLOSED!

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Hugo

Oh, how little these innocents know!

Col Steve

Hugo-
Like blackkoffeeblues, my econ/finance classes were case-study intensive so there were inherent incentives to participate.

Additionally, my Department allowed professors to allocate a percentage of the total grade (from 10-30%) as "Class participation." This grade was for the most part a subjective evaluation of the students' participation in classroom discussion and activities, although professors generally detailed specific performance standards and provided on-going feedback to students on where they stood in the Professor's mind. For me, the rules were generally quality, not quantity, whether student comments and questions facilitated other students' understanding of the subject at hand, and demonstrated practical application of topics (each student had the opportunity to bring in a newspaper article and briefly link the article to something we had studied)

Your situation may not allow that (either by administration or size of class - mine sections were limited to 15-20 students) tool, but having some linkage of classroom performance to overall grade was useful in keeping the class prepared and active.

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