Change it up

One of the things we as teachers can do to help make our classes as powerful as they can be is to consider varying the way in which we deliver and evaluate our class content, assignments, homework, and projects.
Rarely In the real world are the problems we solve ever simple. Rarely are they ever about doing one small simple thing in this way or that way to fix it. In other words, our students will need confidence in solving problems from a variety of perspectives, including a variety of technologies, and through a variety of techniques and skills. Some of the things they try will be objective(if I do this in this way, we will be able to determine immediately whether it worked or not) and some will subjective (if we experiment with this approach, we can see the effect it has and evaluate if it is something worth continuing or adjusting.) We as innovative teachers should model that as best as we can.
The best way we can do that is to make sure that our students get exposure to a wide variety of experiences in relation to our specific subject areas. Make sure your class is not the same thing day in and day out. Make sure the way you introduce a topic changes throughout the year. Make sure you do projects which vary in the skills needed to accomplish them, vary in the ways to solve them, vary in difficulty, vary the types of technology they use, and vary in how long they last. Make sure your homework assignments are different. Sometimes they can be simple worksheets; other times word problems; other times they make their own questions; sometimes they interview someone; sometimes they teach their parents something, maybe they watch a video and respond to a discussion question; take a photo of something; lead a chat room discussion with fellow students; research a topic and respond to something. Some days your kids can be working quietly as their desks, other days they can be out of their seats working together. Your kids should be doing small individual class assignments as well as large group projects; one day and multi-day out-of-class assignments as well. Allow them to enjoy thinking about your subject area outside of your class.
When you test, make sure your test differently each time. Isn’t that a better way of evaluating anyway? That variation in evaluation methods allows student who have different styles of learning, retaining information, presenting information, and communication can also be forced to expand their own horizon’s and develop a wider set of skills…which in the end builds confidence. And as a teacher, it gives you a better chance to really evaluate both your lessons and your students ; the variations in evaluation allow your students to show you in different ways how they are “getting it.”
We’ve got to ensure that our students get exposed to multi-media, cross curricular, multi-learning style, multi-skillset, and multi-energy styles of classroom experiences. It’s not enough that the only time they run or move around is n PE class. It’s not enough that the only time they create something is in Art class. Change it up. Let them engage in your area from a variety of perspectives. Let them see your subject area from a variety of angles and let them interact and think about your area with different parts of their brain.
By doing this, you allow for a deeper engagement for the students with your subject area. And isn’t that the goal after all? It’s not about knowing a formula or a definition…it’s about developing of love of learning.

About Doug Bergman

Head of Computer Science at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, SC
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