Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al
livredor

Teaching

I'm really glad that siderea made a post at some point explaining that intelligence and avidity are different things. This semester I had a class of six students, three boys and three girls. It soon became clear that the girls range between fairly and very avid but aren't very bright, and the boys are reasonably to highly capable but are just coasting. It's always a little worrying when a group divides precisely along gender lines like that, but I'm fairly certain that it's just a statistical blip and not a result of my making biased assumptions.

Six is an odd-sized class; I felt I was on the brink between a large tutorial and a small seminar, a bit. The dim but avid girls asked a lot of questions, some of which were helpful because they made it crystal clear when one of them wasn't following and what information needed repeating or expanding. But one in particular kept asking almost scattershot questions, asking me to restate what I'd just said a few minutes before, or even worse, making it clear that she really wasn't grasping basic principles. She also pestered me and several of the other course leaders between classes rather a lot, asking us to go over lectures she'd missed or explain things to her, but again, it seemed more like "please pay attention to me" than actually having a specific issue that she needed help with. Cynically, I began to develop suspicions that she was trying to cajole us into giving her pre-digested exam answers that she could learn by heart and regurgitate, but if that's the case I think the motivation was panic about not understanding the material well enough to pass the course, rather than laziness.

Meanwhile, the bright but non-avid boys barely deigned to turn up to lectures, and when present, stared into space or fiddled with their phones or had to be pulled up for chatting while I was trying to talk. The inane questions from their female colleagues obviously didn't help with holding their attention. So overall it was pretty challenging to make sure that everyone got equal attention from me, keeping the girls from overwhelming the class and keeping the boys interested. Of course, if this lot had been 5% of a decent sized year group, they'd pretty much all have come away unsatisfied.

Today we had the final part of the course, the bit where I had to assess project work they'd done planning imaginary experiments. I was really pleased, because they'd all put real thought into the project and come up with something original. A great contrast to the planning session earlier in the week, when the girls kept saying "I don't understand, what can we do?" and the boys rolled their eyes and said they didn't have any questions. This hypothetical experiment planning format is really great, making the students think for themselves and apply the information they've learned. There were a couple of errors around not having a grasp of how some of the techniques they'd looked up work, but that's normal, and I was able to explain the points they were missing, so I think everybody learned something from the exercise. The girls made creditable stabs at the exercise, and the boys were stretched a bit because there's pretty much no upper limit in how well you can think out an experiment plan.

After finding the class slightly frustrating, I do feel good about the outcome by the end of the course; I made some real connections. Yay teaching!
Tags: work
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