Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The good ol' days

At another campus a few years ago I taught what I'd consider my ideal biology course: 24 students in the class with the entire time in a lab room. We met twice a week for 3 hours each day, and by the end of the semester I knew every student extremely well. Discussions were commonplace, and I tried to introduce every topic through an active learning exercise such as answering questions in a group, doing a lab activity, or having a class discussion. It was invigorating to be able to jump from "lecture" to "lab" seamlessly in the middle of a lesson.

I'd forgotten how many discussion questions I asked in that course until I went back today to try to use some of those slides in a new lecture I'm writing for my current 180 student class. I looked at my old lectures and realized there was no way I could use them as-is; while I try to make my current teaching as interactive as possible, I can't introduce every topic with a question/discussion and expect to keep the interest of, or get active participation from, all but a small fraction of the class.

I'm hoping that by using the new PRS system I can start to recall some of those small-class days and get more discussions going, but for now I'm reminiscing about those classes and how nice they were to teach. Teaching a lecture to 180 students may not involve more stress, but it sure does reduce the personalization of the education, as well as the pedagogical options available to me.

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