What do I do if I don’t know the answer? Instructor: Emily Gregor Greenleaf TATP Co-ordinator
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What do I do if I don’t know the answer? Instructor: Emily Gregor Greenleaf TATP Co-ordinator email@example.com
TA concerns ConcernsNumber of TAs 12345678910 Overall teaching effectiveness Grading fairly and efficiently Maintaining personal and professional boundaries Being prepared for labs and tutorials Language and cultural diversity of students and TAs Not knowing the answer to student questions Opportunities to develop teaching Classroom management Understanding student and institutional expectations Plagiarism and academic integrity
Goals and challenges for today’s session Goals 1) Alleviate anxiety about these matters 2) Strategies for anticipating and managing challenging questions in the classroom Challenges Significant disciplinary variations on this issue Different kinds of questions/ different expectations for answers Benefits Cross disciplinary information – reflects your students
Discussion Find someone in a different field from you. How would students in your tutorial/lab react if they asked you a question that you could not answer?
In general… 1.Prepare 2.Pre-empt questions by building in active learning strategies and other means to ask questions 3.Turn questions that you absolutely can’t answer into active learning opportunities for students
Different kinds of questions Factual –Only one right answer; answer can be located in a variety of sources. Evaluative/analytical –Expert opinion; answer depends on source consulted. Different student motivations
Today’s Outline 1.Preparing for labs & tutorials –Activity: sharing preparation strategies 2.Strategies for addressing questions in class A. Pre-empting B. Deflecting 3.Applying today’s information to your own context –Activity: brief reflection & planning
Preparing to TA DISCUSSION (groups of 4 or 5): How do you prepare to TA (or, if you do not TA in a classroom, for academic presentations)? How much time do you spend? How much time are you allotted for these activities in your contract? For example, do you: –Attend course lectures? –Read the relevant texts? –Explore additional sources? –Develop a lesson plan?
Tips for preparing to TA Like studying for an open book exam: anticipate questions, identify resources – but no need to memorize everything! Talk to friends/colleagues/faculty advisors. What are common questions about this material? Your advantage – you’re also a learner – what are the sticky points/interesting questions for you? Identify and prepare resources and bring them to class (e.g. encyclopedia/textbook entries, access to the internet). Mark up well for easy reference or develop notes.
Tips for preparing to TA Shape your preparation around “big ideas” – priorities for student learning. Identify a small number of essential ideas that students must grasp by the end of the session. Incorporate these into lesson planning - introduce these at the beginning of class and revisit them at the end of the session. Why? Instill student confidence Streamline preparation
With this preparation… You will be able to bring to class: –Your lesson plan, with three big ideas/objectives for the day and how you will communicate those. –Information on any areas of common problems or student concerns. –Resources (or access to resources) to fill in additional basic factual, background questions that might come up.
Most importantly: set a precedent of NOT answering all questions in the first few classes, even if you do know the answer. Explain to students why you are doing this – that you are helping them to develop long- term skills for identifying and answering their own questions. All questions will get answered, just not all by you and not all right away.
Pre-emptive strategies The strategies you choose will depend on: 1) How much flexibility and autonomy you have in your class sessions and 2) Your own approach to teaching.
Before the semester… Think about, and speak with your course instructor about, ways to incorporate other means for students to ask and answer questions into the course. For example: Can you use a discussion board on Blackboard? Can you ask students to ask or answer questions for participation marks?
Before each class… Think about how much flexibility you have. How much time will you have to explore issues students raise? Are you able to plan the structure of the tutorial session or are the activities already planned for you?
Two strategies: 1.Build in other ways for students to ask questions 2.Incorporate active learning activities into your teaching.
Build in other ways for students to ask questions 1. “Muddy point” one-minute papers 2. Student-student interaction through discussion board