Scene 1: a few days ago
(SW notes that most pencils in the room have stopped moving or have slowed down)
SW: OK, so moving on, we see … (flipping to next slide)
(A hand goes up near the back of the auditorium)
SW: Yes? Did you have a question?
Stu Dent 1: Could you go back a slide? I wasn’t done copying it.
SW: OK, but remember I post most of these slides on Blackboard, so if you don’t get all the details in class, you can review and fill in your notes later.
(Stu Dent 1 lets out a dramatic sigh, quite audible at the front of the auditorium. There’s also a bit of mumbling among students in that back corner.)
SW: Is there a problem?
Stu Dent 2: It’s just that this happens a lot in this class. (Mumbled agreement from that corner of the room)
Scene 2: a few days later
(SW notes that most pencils in the room have stopped moving or have slowed down. She prepares to move to the next slide.)
Stu Dent 3: Does this have anything to do with [the topic of the next slide]?
SW: Great question. In fact, it’s exactly what I was about to tell you about. (Flips to next slide.)
Stu Dent 4: Wait. I wasn’t done writing.
(SW goes back to the previous slide. She waits patiently for the last few pencils to cease. Meanwhile she notices Stu Dent 3 look bored and roll her eyes and another student sending text messages.)
As the two scenes illustrate, I’m struggling with pacing in my introductory class this semester. I’ll admit that I am using powerpoint, even though I’ve been told that it is evil beyond all evil. I’m sure that there are better ways to reach ~100 students at once, but I’m not sure what they are for this introductory science course. (I do try to mix lectures up a bit with think-pair-share, etc.) I’m applying for a summer workshop on teaching large classes, which I hope will give me some good ideas, but in the meantime our teaching center on campus seems to offer workshops that focus more on the tech and less on the teach. And the message I get from my colleagues can be best summarized as: “There’s plenty of time to revise your classes after you get tenure.”
So back to the pacing dilemma…how do I strike the right balance between keeping class moving so as not to bore the heck out of the good students, while going slow enough that I don’t overwhelm the slow-note-takers or can’t-write-while-listening people?
I thought that putting most of my slides on Blackboard would solve these issues, but apparently it didn’t. I suppose something like pod-casting the class could also work to help the slower note-takers. So could posting all of my notes (not just ~50%) on Blackboard, but I’d like to keep strong incentives for people to actually come to class.
One thing I’d like to do is teach them how to take better notes in less time than it takes to copy things word for word from the slides. I’ve thought about doing a lecture where I have the powerpoint up on the screen, and I’m also taking notes as I go along on the adjacent board. Has anyone tried this? Or have you found other effective ways to teach note-taking skills?
What other things should I be doing or trying to find that happy medium in lecture?
I want to write more and think more about teaching, and maybe the newly revived Teaching Carnival will be the impetus to do so. Although it looks like I may have just missed the deadline for the February 23rd edition being hosted at Planned Obsolence.