Thursday, July 2, 2015

Learning From Your Students

My colleague, Dr. Christine Larson and I, just spent the last five days with twenty middle school and high school math teachers. We often have week-long teacher workshops in the summer, depending on whether or not our grant is funded. Every time we have a workshop, I always leave with more knowledge than when I started. Yes, Chris and I are the instructors, so shouldn’t we be the ones imparting knowledge on the participants?

The answer to that question is Yes and No. This answer reiterates what we did throughout the workshop—let your students explore the concepts, figure things out for themselves, and discuss what they discovered with their classmates. Yes, this is an extremely difficult way to teach. Yes, things will not always go as planned—sometimes they will be better and sometimes they will be worse. But the one thing that will always happen is that you will learn from your students and your students will learn from each other!

The participants in our workshop ranged from teachers that just finished their first year of teaching to those that have taught more than 30 years. All of them contributed to the conversation, shared great ideas, developed creative lesson plans, and learned from each other. And both Chris and I learned a lot as well.

I think that sometimes as instructors we think that we need to know everything that might happen in our classroom; that we need to impart our expertise to the students; and that we don’t have time to let students explore on their own. However, some of the best learning takes place when students explore concepts on their own and discuss their ideas with each other.

How do we find the balance between student exploration and concept coverage in our classrooms?

                                                             Group Photo

Back row (Left to right):  Jerry Toering, Chamberlain; Patti Hancock, Chamberlain; Pam Zubke, Brookings; Cassandra Richter, Brookings; Amy Tvedt, Deuel; Jane Syltie, Brookings; Carolyn Burns, Deuel; Ashley Brockhaus, Aberdeen; Amy Thompson, Aberdeen; Jarrod Huntimer, Brookings.
Front row (left to right):  Todd Jorgenson, Brookings; Tom Carruthers, Chamberlain; Kelli Pazour, Chamberlain; Lori Wagner, Webster; Sharon Vestal, SDSU faculty; Julie Abraham, Brookings; Michelle Moeding, Iroquois; Christine Larson, SDSU faculty; Cindee Evenson, Menno; Adam Juba, Brookings; Adam Nelson, Chamberlain; Jeff Rademacher, Chamberlain.