Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who are we kidding? Apparently not my LAs

Here's an example of the kind of worksheets students are doing in college physics courses around the country and also here at my university. I have no doubt that students working through these worksheets (especially in groups) is better than having them silently watch a graduate TA work out problems at the blackboard. But who are we kidding with this stuff?

Apparently not my LAs:

On the heels of a reading about the difference being "univocal" discourse and "dialogic" discourse, this is what one LA had to say about the class she teaches in that uses these worksheets:

I love how this LA feels that this worksheet is a trap for both the teacher– "The teacher is limited to this because of worksheets..."– and for the students, "You must realize the exact answer it is asking you for"

This LA also realizes that what appears to be open questions about science are really closed questions, "Questions could have more than one answer... however, you realize that it was asking for a particular answer."

And how this LA connects the worksheet structure to how students behave: Students are asking questions like,"What are they looking for here?"

This should disturb us–not about our students, but about our worksheets. What are we doing to them? These students aren't asking about the physics, they are asking about what they are supposed to put down on a piece of paper. Seriously, don't get me started on a conversation about who is "they", anyway.

But here's the question:

If my LAs aren't duped by worksheets after reading just one paper about the nature of discourse in math and science classrooms, why are so many of my colleagues?

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