Now that I’ve sent the first exam over to the copy center, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my new approach with the Intro Cell Bio class. In short, I set out to lecture far less, expect students to read in advance, and use class time to work problems, questions, and (small) case studies. So how’s it going, and where can I improve?
I have definitely been refraining from long lectures so far, with the longest one clocking in around 30 min (I think). I’m really trying to focus on the highlights from the text and respond to student confusion. The material thus far has not been all that challenging, so I anticipate more student questions as we move deeper into the material. It’s amazing to watch the class though, and even after 20 min of talking at them, some of them are clearly disengaging, especially if there are no slides. I have prepared slides for last two topics, and that seems to keep their interest up longer, plus I think they feel secure knowing better what to “put down” in their notes.
I can’t tell whether students are actually reading more or not. I thought with the new text being more focused on a single topic that I explicitly assigned for a particular date that they would have an easier time keeping up. I’m not quizzing them on the readings, but that might be a good way to encourage a deeper reading ahead of time. I think having a better linkage between the content in the reading and the problem/question/case for the day would also be an improvement.
The in-class work has been hit-and-miss. I feel like some days I managed to provide excellent chances for them to sink their teeth into a question, while others were much more mundane and less engaging. Several times I’ve had them focus on food as a means to apply the material (carbohydrates, lipids) and make the class more relevant for the Food Course Connection. The best class by far, at least in my opinion, was one focused on a medical case study. It was abbreviated from its original version, but there was enough information in it for them to gain the background they needed to ‘solve’ the case questions. I guess I’ll find out from their first exams whether the approach is paying off.