Teaching to the middle

Inspired by a Photon Courier post on panicky parents who won’t let their children fail, Right Wing Prof writes about how he helps students succeed.

My favorite students are the average to not too far above average intelligence students who are motivated and work their butts off. I’ll do anything to help those students succeed. They know they’re not at the top of the intelligence curve, they know what they want, and they’re willing to work extremely hard to get it.

He has lots of advice for professors on expanding office hours, offering extra help sessions and using “students’ problems to diagnose what you’re doing.”

If your students are having trouble understanding, say, Chi-square, ask yourself how you could address it in class to better help them understand. If something works in office hours, start using it in class.

Listen closely to your students when they explain what they don’t understand. Sometimes, what they don’t understand is more fundamental than they realize – or you would realize if you just answered the question. If that’s the case, address the fundamental problem, then work your way back to the original question.

If necessary, he writes, teach the basic skills they should have learned in high school.

And yes, it is your job. It’s certainly also the job of the teachers they had before, but that’s past, and they’re your students now (and if you need to be angry, then be angry at the school system, not the student). Do what you have to do.

Give frequent assessents, so students understand what they don’t understand, the prof recommends. And teach to the middle.

Update: Teacher Lady, a college instructor in human sexuality, is ready to take her comps and start on her dissertation. But she doesn’t want to be a professor any more. Students with an inflated sense of their abilities and a load of excuses are making her mean, bitter and jaded.

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Comments

  1. We can’t teach to the middle. The way NCLB is set up, (and the Calif. measuring systems also) you get a much bigger bang for your buck by moving some one up from the bottom to the middle, than someone from the middle to the top.

    Principals are telling us, and training us, to focus on the bottom.

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    That’s a pity, gahrie, because there are more students in the middle than on the bottom, by the very nature of the bell curve.

    But what’s even sadder is that we’re talking about abandoning the top. I wish it would be possible to teach in a way that helped the bottom, the middle and the top.

  3. “But what’s even sadder is that we’re talking about abandoning the top. I wish it would be possible to teach in a way that helped the bottom, the middle and the top.”

    There is. It’s called tracking…which is the forbidden word in education today, and actually illegal in many places.

  4. wayne martin says:

    > you get a much bigger bang for your buck by
    > moving some one up from the bottom to the
    > middle, than someone from the middle to the top.

    The STAR test data shows that the bottom is so far down compared to the middle and above, that the State really has no option but to focus on this group.