Yesterday was the first JIT day for the intermediate macro class. As I noted in an earlier post, the plan called for students to read the chapter and submit an analysis of the content including a summary of the main points and a list of questions about the material they didnâ€™t understand.
I had a few concerns going in: Since the chapter was introductory and the material relatively straightforward, what if the students had no questions? (Or what if they didnâ€™t do the reading or summaries and had no questions?) My plan in that eventuality was to spend the class time modeling the next step: Developing a class consensus summary of the chapter on the wiki. When I mentioned my plans to the TIP Seminar the other day, they raised a different challenge: What if the students said they didnâ€™t understand anything? I resolved to tell them that that was unacceptable, that they needed to dig deeper into the material to try to articulate what it was they didnâ€™t understand. As it turned out, only one group turned in no questions, saying they thought they understood the material well enough. I did receive a couple examples of the second concern:
- “Can you go over all of the formulas in this chapter and how they were created?”
- “Primary Identities”
I showed the class those and explained why they werenâ€™t helpful. I got a sense that perhaps at some level those students were testing me. But Iâ€™m getting a bit ahead of myself here.
Yesterday morning I retrieved all the chapter analyzes which had been emailed to me. It took me no more than 15 minutes to collect and sort the questions. The range of questions was not too bad:
- Seven groups raised questions about one concept;
- Four groups asked about another concept;
- Three groups flagged two concepts;
- Two groups flagged two concepts;
- Sixteen more questions were raised by single groups.
I didnâ€™t have time enough during the day to develop answers to the questions, so I ended up having to do those in real time during class. If there had been questions I didnâ€™t think I could figure out that way, I would have had to find the time before class.
When the class met, I brought the pdf of the chapter up on the projection screen. We went to the part of the text that was the source of each question. I spent the session answering the questions and trying to make sure that the students actually got what I was telling them. I managed to answer all the questions raised by more than one group. Only one of the questions was actually substantive. The rest were definitional or presentational. This wasnâ€™t too surprising, given that it was an introductory chapter.
By the end of the period, I was both exhilarated and a bit exhausted, though I couldnâ€™t tell how much of this was due to it being the end of the first week of the term. All I can conclude is that this is a very different way to lead a class session.
On to the next step.