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Greg Davis's picture

thanks to all for your feedback

Thanks to all of you for the opportunity to get some feedback on my butterfly eyespot presentation.  Both Keith and Regina (and perhaps others) suggested I need to get some butterflies in everyone's hand so they can see them up close.  What I'd like to do is to allow everyone to look at them through a microscope on their own.  Regina (and perhaps others) suggested that I have a written handout, with major points but at a minimum a glossary of important terms. Those are both great suggestions.  Hopefully I'll have a simulation that students can run on laptops in the lab.  If this wasn't clear already, please feel free to modify or use the ppt presentation in any way you see fit.
As to my particular prompt concerning the right balance of entertaining alternative explanations versus "moving on", the reason I asked this was because this point was particularly frustrating for some students in the portion of introductory biology I taught last spring. Each section was about 40 students, so this perhaps explains the frustration. Jessica in particular got to witness this in introductory biology but wrote above that it worked well in this context (the summer institute), probably because the group was small enough to make it manageable. I do think that students' frustration with giving air time to students or alternate perspectives/explanations is partly due to previous experiences with more authoritarian modes of teaching and just wanting to know "right answer", with less appreciation that the textbook descriptions of many phenomena are, in fact, merely our best guesses at our current place in history (this is a brief discussion I had with Keith in the hall). Nevertheless, when the group gets to be large, one has to be sympathetic with students that are frustrated with just too many viewpoints taking up too much time.  Mattie suggested that 35 students is just too many to be trying to entertain all voices, and I suppose that is probably true.  Although changing formats and breaking up into pairs or small groups seems to be a good strategy to give voice to as many students as possible. I also think it just depends on the group; one may reach a point with a small but very engaged, vocal group when it is time to move on lest the conversation stagnate.  This is a tough judgment call that experience likely makes easier.  I think two years ago I presumed that students in my classes were more bored than they in fact were. I learned that I needed to slow it down and be more interactive.  For intro biology last spring I think didn't calibrate for the larger size of my class and the pendulum sort of swung a bit too far in the other direction.
Thanks again. Best wishes for the rest of the institute and next year teaching. If you have any questions or comments for me please feel free to email me (gdavis@brynmawr.edu).
Greg

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