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Describe some of the alternative classroom formats possible when teaching with these worksheets.

Short answer:

The core of this teaching philosophy is to have students research the subject, then present what they have found to their instructor and peers, with the instructor orchestrating the learning process as necessary. Many alternatives exist for each component of this process.

Long answer:

I will break the instructional process into three components (research, presentation, and accountability), provide alternative ideas for implementing each component, and then show hypothetical examples of how a class might be taught using some of these alternative implementations. Please note that many of the alternatives listed here are non-exclusive. That is, they do not constitute an "either-or" choice when designing a classroom format, and may be combined, alternated over time, etc.




Hypothetical examples

Note: some of these examples are descriptions of teaching methods I have seen in action. Some of the others I have only read about, and others yet are just ideas of mine at this point. The purpose of these examples is not to provide guaranteed strategies, but rather to illustrate the flexibility of a worksheet-based curriculum, and to show how the elements of research, presentation, and accountability may be implemented in multiple ways. The success of any teaching method is just as dependent on circumstantial factors such as class size, class time, instructor ability, student age and ability, and availability of learning resources as it is on the method itself. In other words, you mileage may vary!

Bob assigns his students a large worksheet at the end of every week, containing the next week's research questions. His students do their own research over the weekend, and continue their research outside of school time during the weekdays. At the beginning of each class session, students meet in the library to continue their research in groups, where Bob helps each student use library resources, read their textbooks, and generally gain self-teaching skills. Then, students go to their classroom and present what they've found when randomly called on by Bob. Bob's function in the classroom is to manage the discussion, challenge students with follow-up questions, and provide additional information when necessary.

Margaret assigns her students small, daily worksheets, which they research answers to. After studying outside of class, her students gather together each day in small groups (six to ten students) to share what they've found and to help each other learn. Margaret's role in these student groups is minimal, as her students manage the discussion on their own. She is available, however, to help whenever it is needed. The ultimate accountability for their study comes from their performance on frequently-given exams. Students also grade the contributions of their teammates once every few weeks, to ensure all are participating as they should.

Jane assigns daily worksheets to her students, who research answers to the questions and write their own individual responses. When her students gather in class, they form groups of three or four, and compare answers. One of the students in each group acts as a secretary, writing a combined response for the group to each of the worksheet questions. Jane visits each of these groups periodically as they work through the questions, providing assistance and direction as needed. Afterward, the groups submit all responses (individual and corporate) to Jane, who grades them for effort and accuracy. Jane uses the remainder of the class time to answer any remaining questions and preview the next day's worksheet topics with a short lecture.

Sidney has decided to make his curriculum project-based. In addition to some conceptual questions, each week's worksheet describes a project his students are to complete, with hints on where to obtain information and resources. Students perform research as a means to an end: to get their project built. Class time is largely unscheduled, with students deciding how they must spend their time to complete the project (reading books, obtaining parts, building, collecting data). Sidney helps his students succeed by providing information when they become "stuck" on a difficult concept, and by holding them accountable to a schedule of project completion. After completion, the respective student teams present their projects to the class as a whole for peer review. Because of the comprehensive nature of these learning experiences, and the ample opportunity they provide for performance assessment, Sidney has few written exams.

Laura assigns daily worksheets to her students, but only requires that students research answers to some of the questions, not all. This way, she is able to make her worksheets as lengthy as necessary to cover important concepts in small increments (lots of questions, each one logically leading into the next), without overloading students with work. During class time, she holds students individually accountable for answering their assigned questions, but leaves time to answer any of the non-assigned worksheet questions if students ask. She grades each student's response to their assigned question(s) according to both effort and accuracy.

Michael's weekly worksheets are comprised of one or two real-life problems, described in words and images. Each problem contains multiple questions, and is structured in a very realistic manner so as to support multiple correct answers. These problems do not reveal what specific topics or techniques students must learn in order to solve them, and this is intentional. In order for students to answer these questions, they must not only perform their own research, but decide what specific topics to research on before they even begin. At the end of each week, the student groups come together to present and compare answers to these complex problems.

Pat assigns daily worksheets for students, each one containing a small project or experiment that each student group is expected to complete by the next day. These hands-on activities provide immediate relevance and context to the concepts represented by the other worksheet questions. Pat has designed many of these "mini-projects" so that they may be completed in different ways. This allows students to apply creativity to their completion, and this expands the learning of all when different groups' projects are presented to the class as a whole.

Chuck's students enter his class with very low academic skills. He would like to apply research/presentation methodology to his class, but he knows it would be too much for his students to "leap" from the lecture environments of their other classes to something novel and demanding like this. His solution to this dilemma is to transition from lecture to research/presentation slowly: he begins each quarter by assigning worksheets to students for their study, but he initially conducts class sessions by answering all the questions himself, showing students where and how he was able to find information to answer all the questions. Students are encouraged, but not required, to read through the worksheets and to contribute with their own presentations. In this way, the style of Socratic discussion displaces the familiar lecture format, without asking any more from the students than a lecture would. Week by week, though, Chuck begins to assign worksheet questions to students: first, by assigning specific questions to specific students; later, by assigning multiple questions to students. By the end of the quarter, students bear most of the responsibility for learning, and have learned how to do their own research through the example that Chuck provided for them.

Lucy is an outstanding lecturer, but realizes that students just aren't getting the full benefit of learning when they passively listen to her presentations. So, she video-records a series of "mini-lectures," organized by topic, for her students to view outside of class time. Her worksheets ask questions related to these lectures, which her students research and then present on when they come to her class. In this way, Lucy is able to identify and correct gaps in her students' comprehension far more efficiently than if she were spending her class time lecturing.

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