Year: 1996-1997
Month: February
Leader: Group D

Situation/Case Study:

A Physics teacher provides students with concrete opportunities to observe and discuss physics phenomena. For example, he has them dropping tennis balls over the balcony to observe speed and velocity. Recently he has taught them how do use the computer to do lab work rather than doing hand calculations. It took a long time for every student to understand the process but once they got it they became excited about it and wanted to do all their lab work this way. The teacher is excited about this because it is the way physicists actually work and the student interest and motivation was heartening. However, these things take more time than using a textbook and traditional lab approach. The teacher feels comfortable with taking more time with his general physics class since it is mainly for the purpose of exploration and exposure. He is concerned about his advanced placement class, however, since they will have to pass tests on content in order to gain admission to programs at colleges.


Theories behind practice:

Impact on others:
1. Teachers see greater student motivation when content is studied in more meaningful depth. 2. Teachers have required content they must cover. 3. Teachers can't both teach in depth and cover all the required content.

Participants gave examples from their experiences of trying to teach in greater depth. Most found this increased student learning and motivation. Frustrations with requirements to cover content at the expense of learning it well were expressed. It was noted that state graduation standards, achievement tests, college entrance tests and expectation of parents and administrators all pressure teachers not to teach in depth even though they believe to do so results in more learning. It was noted that Howard Gardner, Harvard psychologist known for his theory of multiple intelligences, who advocates teaching less and teaching in more depth, surveyed physics majors at the top ivy league universities and found that while they could recite information, they could not solve physics problems.

The discussion was very lively and participants enjoyed each other's excitement as we described ways we had tried to teach in greater depth and the positive results we had experienced in terms of student motivation and learning. Participants said they liked this process better than the problem focus, which they had begun to find somewhat negative and limiting. At the beginning of this session, the administrator, who is a member of the group, reported that she had been to a meeting discussing the reflective practice groups where it was determined that sessions did not have to be oriented toward problems with students but could include issues we are thinking about or new strategies we are trying. Our group decided to try opening the discussion up to this broader range of possibilities and to forgo the predetermined process. The issue we decided to discuss is our attempts to go deeper into concepts with students and how this seems to get in the way of covering all of the content we believe we are required