Last Spring, the most common single comment on my student evaluations from my two College Algebra classes was “Nice, clear notes”. While it was meant as a positive from the students, it stung a little. I hadn’t been teaching the way that I would like to.
So I figured I’d start by identifying some of the challenges that keep me from teaching the way that I’d like to teach.
- Class Sizes. In Fall 2007, I had a Business Calculus class with 24 students. Twenty-four! It was a great class. My other classes around that time were between 30 and 40 students. Before that, I taught as a grad student in the developmental math program, when the class sizes there were capped at 30. (Bliss, I tell you!) This semester every class started out at 48 students. Last year was close to the same. I’ve retreated into lecture when dealing with that many, but I’m trying to break out of that this year.
- Time to Prepare Before the Semester Starts. This is something I’ve never had. I’m at the bottom of the totem-pole at work, and they don’t announce teaching schedules for junior lecturers until about two weeks before the semester starts. And then, you can’t count on it– I’ve had my schedule changed at the very last second (like on the actual first day of school) and I’ve been burned by putting 40+ hours of planning into a course I end up not teaching.
- Time During the Semester. It takes time to plan a good lesson. Time always seems to be in short supply during the semester. This will always be true, but it’s worth mentioning.
So… there’s more challenges than this, of course. Student resistance to nontraditional teaching methods could be a whole category of challenges. I’m not putting that on here, though, since I was willing to tackle that challenge once upon a time.
Now that I’ve got these written out, I’m realizing that I’m focusing here on things that are outside of my locus of control. I suppose that’s why I’ve felt so powerless to change things. I know my time management could be better, and I’ll be working on that. The real trick is dealing with the class size issue. You just can’t treat a group of almost-50 the same as a group of less than 30. But there’s got to be ways to deal with helping large groups of students construct meaning. That’s the goal for this semester– Lots of experimentation to see just what works.