Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Teacher Institute 

I went to my first teacher institute today and found it surprisingly interesting. Meetings in the "working world" were always deadly dull, but here, we had a daylong presentation from the High Schools that Work people which was rather interesting. Some of it was reinforcing ideas of my own: For example, I've long felt that a 2-year algebra 1 sequence was a bad idea. It appears that the HSTW people had research to back it up. Their suggestion to how to do this was partly also mine: Having students take a "double dose" of math, with one class being the regular Algebra 1 course, and the second being a supplementary course to build and reinforce basic math skills. Other options they mentioned included using a summer bridge program (which seems like it would be very helpful with borderline students).

During discussions about school reform, I found myself thinking about how the best way to make reforms survive changes in faculty and administration would be to build the provisions into the teachers' union contract. I wasn't the only person to have this thought, apparently, as it rapidly developed into a consensus in the room independently.

Another intriguing idea was to re-group students on a 9-week basis rather than each semester. In classes like math and foreign language, I can see this being especially important as a failure to keep up in the first quarter can lead to almost certain failure in the following quarter(s).

The other thing brought up which really struck me was the idea of having students re-do work that isn't up to the standard. It's one area where I imagine many teachers, myself included, forget that what we're about is making sure that students learn the objectives and let the grade suddenly become the objective in itself. This almost makes me rethink the whole idea of how to grade. I think that grades really should flow out of the course objectives and the students' demonstration of having achieved those objectives.

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