My intro physics class has been experiencing a gradual deterioration of productive classroom culture:
- There is a growing attitude of “let’s just get out of here as quickly as possible”
- There is growing attitude of, “please just teach us what we need to know for the test”
- Fewer groups work in ways that help to make sure everyone’s contributing and learning
- There are more and more absences, and people who decide to leave after the quiz (if we don’t have a lab)
- There are more and more students who are disengaging from trying and just waiting for someone to show them
I’m not sure exactly what the culprit is, but I will speculate about some of the influences:
Standards-based assessment has made me a bit more skill-focused, I think at the expense of nurturing wonder and curiosity. As the skills have become more difficult throughout the semester, the focus on skills has ramped up even more.
I have been less clear about my expectations for group work, and less consistent about monitoring and intervening. Last semester I was obsessively monitoring groups. This semester, I still do monitor, but I am less consistent and vigilant.
Last semester when students were absent (which was rare), I typically emailed them, or at least mentioned their absence the next time. There are too many absences this semester to make that easy. A big difference is having a Friday afternoon class this semester, where last semester was midday Tuesday and Thursday. Students both want to get out on Friday as early as possible to start the weekend, but they are also just more likely to miss class entirely, for traveling, or just because. This, in turn, creates a tacit culture of, “people miss class all the time,” which leads people to miss class more.
I teach a long day on Wednesdays, and physics is my last class of the day. I am exhausted by the time I get around to them, which is part of why I may be less attentive to productive group dynamics, fostering healthy learning culture, etc.
Before and after class last semester was time where I got to know students. Now its a time for reassessment. I used to also use the time before class to show or talk about cool stuff on the internet. We watched a few Derek Muller Videos. We watched a Vi-hart video. We watched Dan Meyer’s Ted Talk. I showed some blog posts from Rhett Allain when they were relevant to what we were learning. We watched a video on Carol Dweck’s Mindset research. Those videos often led to conversations about how to learn physics, about the culture of school, and how physics is related to the real world and to being in a community of people who like to talk about physics. Now, we talk about reassessment.
What do you all think?