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Some Thoughts On Pedagogy
Here is a start on some thoughts born out of teaching arts
students a weather and climate course.
- I submit that the most important learning especially for first year classes is
not the content but the development of problem solving, communication, analytical, and
critical thinking skills. Yet many intro courses are structured
around memory work and truckloads of concepts that will likely be
forgotten a month after the final exam.
- Given the above, I have structured my "Weather and Climate" course
as a course in "thinking like a scientist" using weather and climate
as a case study.
- As an example, I section my weather and climate course
around the following key questions: a) what determines temperature?
b) what determines precipitation? c) what determines weather? d) is
the climate changing? if so why, in what ways, and what should be
done about it? In the first class, the students collectively develop a plan to address
- I have found that in-class pair exercises greatly increases student
involvement and attention. It also gives the instructor a chance to
wander around and make individual contact with students.
- Get students out of their seats and animated. Eg, instead of
describing 3 modes of heat transport, have a group of students
actively figure it out with a box of tennis balls. After such displays, key
concepts are much more strongly anchored in student minds.
- Have students identify what they don't know and rank it in order
- Make extensive use of classroom assessement techniques. Eg, at the
end of lectures on difficult topics, have the students summarize what
they thought were the key points and write one question on a 3 x 5
card to be returned to the instructor.
- Facilitate and support learner self-responsibility. Eg, during
the first class have your students identify what they want to get out
of this course and what would make the course a fulfilling learning
experience. Try to adjust your course plan to best address these
learner goals within the curiculum constraints.
Teaching Tips is a good first stop for ideas on everything from "Dealing with
stress" to course design and "101 Things the First Three Weeks".
- The most important learning tools for my own children are:
wonder, curiousity, and play. How can we promote these in
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