This is to present a few teaching scenarios that receive good responses from students, add flavour and have impact on both students and staff. We found this 'happening' in 1995 and 1996, mostly in the first year course, Introduction to Environmental Sciences.
Bill stands up front and asks the audience, "Does anyone know one of the answers? "3 Across, isn't it porosity?" Bill says, "Yes, the ratio of pore volume to the total soil volume." Ross at the overhead fills in the letters; but mistakes are made, to be picked up by students. In the end Ross gives himself 10/10 - but the students highlight mistakes - Ross marks himself down. We BUMBLE through it - but they love it and learn.
Ross asks: "Who is the odd one out?"
Answer: "Bill has no hair."
Ross: "Less important than that."
Answer: "Jennifer is the only girl."
Ross: "Too easy."
Answer (finally): "Only Bill has no calculator."
Ross: "Got it! Bring your calculators to lab. Bill would be turned away and/or do poorly in the lab."
Ross: "Odd one out?" Repeated until lab coats, shoes and notes are also discovered. One of 'object' lessons.
Bill: "pH is a measure of acidity."
Ross: "Don't you believe him. He is not always right. Why is it a measure of acidity?"
Bill: "Can't be sure now, but what do you (students) think?"
Answer: "It is between 1 and 14. 14 is the most basic. Why, then, is pH a measure of acidity?"
Bill: "All is coming clear. I would have been better to say pH is a measure of basicity. It really is the power of 10 (made positive since it is almost always a negative number) of the concentration of the hydrogen 'ion'."
Ross: "Academic verbosity. What is it really?"
(Most students are feeling this way. But they are not asleep; some are a little angry because they are 'not getting the answers'.)
Bill: "Put it this way. A solution can have ions - bits dissolved in it that are charged. The solutions we talk about, especially the 'neutral' ones, may have few of these, but the positive and negative charges must balance. For instance, in pure water
and, since the gram molecular weight of hydrogen is one and there are 1000 grams of water in a litre, the concentration of hydrogen ions is
Is it clear that there is almost nothing in the water and that, as the amount increases, the large number in the denominator actually decreases? Etc."
Here, at least we waked them up for another 10-minute run. It also should impress them to question their mentors and that things are not certain. They should be critical and 'know' that hydrogen ion concentrations are very small and that pH runs from small values in a concentrated acid solution to large values in an alkaline solution.
Alternatively, they may be simply confused.
Diagram of a 'Slapstick' Team Colloquy
In addition the associate lecturer requires clarity of the main lecturer with responses like "What do you mean?" or "Is that what is called -?". Questions are classified, clarified and repeated as they come from the audience or the main lecturer; the associate lecturer makes sure all questions are dealt with.
The students hear the content, learn to question, see a varied environment, appreciate the humour and get breaks in a dry presentation. Indeed, the whole crowd can enjoy the learning process; the teachers can enjoy the situation and present a vibrant, enthusiastic picture which the student can take home and into life.
|Please cite as: Scott, W. and Lantzke, R. (1997). Laurel and Hardy and crosswords: Teaching as fun. In Pospisil, R. and Willcoxson, L. (Eds), Learning Through Teaching, p290-293. Proceedings of the 6th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Murdoch University, February 1997. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1997/scott1.html|