Sunday, December 6, 2015

Clarity in Explanations

I came across this article while researching for some assignments and thought it helpful.  I found the paragraph on "Reconstituted and repeated" especially familiar.  I have students who are at various levels of veterinary experience.  For some, tasks and concepts are easily assimilated as they have already seen them done or performed them before.  For others, it is the first time they have been introduced to the notion and they have a hard time grasping it.  Finding other ways to describe it can be difficult.

An example I am often faced with is getting students to understand the difference between what the number of x-rays accomplishes and what the power of x-rays accomplishes.  Some students understand how to tell the difference right away, and others struggle for the entire semester.  I really identified with the "Paced at the speed of the learner" paragraph: I never feel like I have enough time in the semester to get through all the material, never mind having to repeat lessons.  Perhaps some support materials would be helpful for the students to peruse in their own time to help re-enforce the idea.

This year for the first time most of the class "got it".  The faculty member and I met several times last year to try and figure out how to teach it differently to help them.  We changed some flowcharts to better explain the concept; the faculty member explained the idea in lecture and then I re-enforced it in lab sessions throughout the semester.  I still feel as though some students struggled with it and weren't honest about it.  Perhaps embarrassed by their inability to grasp the idea, they would not admit that they needed extra help or had questions.  I don't have enough time to check in with each of them individually, unfortunately.  Perhaps having a 'concept check' quiz partway through the semester to see where they are at, and checking in with those who are less successful on the quiz.

I think continuing to try to find new and better ways to explain concepts is a good idea, even if this year’s class understood.  There are no guarantees that next year’s group will be in the same place and having a collection of explanations will help to ensure their success.

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