166 – Talking too much, worried about content

One of the biggest risks in engaging students more is a decrease in content. It is probably the thing that worries me most coming from a traditional lecture/lab background. On one side, too many activities and labs without content become undirectional and one the other side, too much talking and kids tune out.

It is a hard balance for me and so far one thing is clear: I don’t have enough time. If I had 15 more minutes a period, it would be perfect. But, I don’t and I won’t so I have to streamline the content without losing information and get kids asking questions more.

Sometimes I feel that kids not asking questions in class is not my fault but the fact that maybe others are not asking them to ask questions to me and each other. By questions, I mean questions that lead to dialogue and conversation about biology, not just a plain answer. I’d love for exploration of a topic and a desire to dig deeper into the system and not just a superficial answer. I am trying to get there but the road is not easy.

Today I did not teach well. This week in AP we are doing concept related statistical analysis: chi square, standard deviation, standard error and regression. The biological examples are great and I have to thank the HHMI for that. But, in delivering it I went too fast and was too confusing. I assumed kids knew things they did not. I was excited but they seemed lost. My natural reaction to this is to slow down instead of pushing through. Many of them are confused about what to use when (which is a common confusion even in adults). The idea that these are tools to help them investigate, analyze their data and provide support for claims is a hard one to convey and I hope later, in context it will be more apparent. My goal is to have them select the appropriate metric at the correct time and be able to explain what the metric is helping them do in explaining their data.

So, tomorrow we will slow it down and delve more into regression in specific circumstances and how to use it with regard to correlation and strength of support.

I will eventually find the balance of content/activity support in honors and I think it will take a little time. I don’t want boring lectures but I also don’t want fluffy non-content activities.

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