Week 2: Broken Angle Puts the Brakes on Blog Updates

Tuesday afternoon this week, I broke my ankle playing ultimate frisbee, so I’m a little behind on the blog updates. Here’s a quick synopsis of the week with some reflection:

Monday: Maintaining Good Facilitation Choices Even When Tired

Monday Evening in Learning Assistant Pedagogy, we discussed and watched some videos from periscope. We watched two videos of Learning Assistants interacting with group as they engage in collaborative activities. We had some decent conversation, but everyone is always a bit tired by 6:00-7:30 pm. I have even noticed myself that I make poorer facilitation decisions in the evening–a lot of times out of sheer exhaustion / laziness.  For example, the day could have ended with a short summary discussion of things we’ve learned about being an “LA”. Through our discussions, ideas like, “making space for students to talk,” “not getting so excited about your own explanation that you take over the conversation, “Restating what students just said to keep the conversation going,” “asking other students if they agree or disagree”, etc. These are all really great insights. And while they came up in discussion, a summary conversation at the end could have helped crystallized these, rather than being merely ephemeral notions that come and go. I chose to end class at the end of the second video discussion, rather than quickly generate a list of good ideas about being an LA that had come up. A second poor decision I made was when a quieter student tried to gain access to the conversation, I cut off another student to give the floor to the quieter student. I did it in a way that came off as awkward. On a better day, I might have said something quickly, “Sarah, you go, and then lt’s hear from Janet.”

Tuesday:  Learning that we have packed too many things

In our revised algebra-based physics course, we have learned this week that we have tried to cram too much in. The days have felt a bit hectic. Not that any one day was bad, but if every day feels that hectic, it grinds on everyone. Some of our activities are just too long; some days we just have too many different things happening. For future planning, we have a goal of  prioritizing better and doing more with less.

Wednesday: Returning LAs are really fantastic to have

In LA prep, we had some really good physics conversations about velocity vs. time graphs. A good range of facility, but students worked well together. One thing that has been great is returning LAs. They really know how to collaborate well (even when it’s thing they already know). It’s nice that they can be there to model that. Instructors have given several compliments about how good those returning LAs are in their classes. One professor even noted that the LA might be better at asking good questions to students than they are.

Thursday: Short Class because of Orthopedic Appointment

I had to shorten class because of the my ankle, so our problem of having too many things was going to be made even worse. But it was a good exercise in cutting out the unnecessary. After a few clicker questions to review piece-wise constant velocity vs time graphs, basically all we did that day was a lab… learning how to use photogate to measure speed, and then taking data for how velocity changes for a cart on an incline ramp. Definitely some revising of the labs was needed, but it overall went well.

Friday:  Physics Tutor Workshop

A year ago, the university started centralized tutoring in the library. We hire physics majors to tutor for intro physics and astronomy. We’ve had a few common complaints about tutors, so we decided to do a brief workshop with them. I’ll be running that this afternoon. Part of the issue is that physics majors go through Matter and Interactions and the algebra-based course starts more traditionally with kinematics. It’s not helpful when the physics majors start by saying, “So you start this problem with the momentum principle.” Other complaints have been that physics majors do not understand second semester topics very well–I think this is especially true for optics. The third complaint has been that some tutors do not “circulate” well. There might be 15 students in the tutoring room, and the tutor spends all the time with just a few students. I may give more details about the workshop in a future post.

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