MR W's TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

My teaching philosophy is fairly straightforward: Help students learn.

Everything I do as a teacher is defined by that goal: Help students learn -- Think of me as your learning coach!

Having said that however, it is important for my students and the folks at home to understand just what I mean by that.  Learning means being able to show understanding of a topic in science, not simply to recite facts and figures about that topic.

The best analogy I can give (and will use early and often this year) is that of installing and programming a VCR/DVR:

There are two ways to go about installing and programming a VCR/DVR:

  1. Attempt to read the manual (always a chore) and figure it out
  2. Ask someone to help you (in other words ask them what to do or do it for you)

The very best ways to learn and understand a new concept in science is to work with it, investigate it and explain it.

The very worst way to learn something in science is ask someone to tell you what you are supposed to remember so you can spit that back on a test and get a good grade-- That is memorizing, not learning.

Are you (the student) going to be the person who figures out how to install and program the VCR/DVR, or are you going to be the person who asks someone else to do it for you?

If you work through the steps of learning how to install and program a VCR/DVR, then the next time you have to do that, or something like it, you'll be good to go!

If someone tells you how to install and program a VCR/DVR, then the next time you have to do that, or something like it, you won't be able to!

One of our classroom rules is "Solve The Problem".

Very often a student will ask me to answer a question or a problem that comes up in the science classroom.  More often than not, my response is "Talk in your group" or "Solve the problem."

Please know that I'm not being glib.... I certainly can answer the question, but that doesn't help my students learn.

Science is all about method and process. Answers in science mean absolutely nothing without showing processes and procedures. It can be difficult for some students, especially for those who WANT THE ANSWER NOW!!!

A unique aspect of science education is that it is entirely possible to get an incorrect answer on a test, but still get most of the available points for that problem -- by showing process!

Likewise it is also possible in science to answer a test question correctly but still only get a fraction of the points available because the method was absent or incorrect.

I do expect my students to understand basic facts and figures. However, it is much more important that my students can utilize those facts and figures to show understanding of a topic.

For example: I expect my students to learn that the electrons have a -1 charge.

However, to show understanding of atomic structure, I expect my students to explain why an electron stays in orbit around an atomic nucleus and doesn't fly off into space.

TESTS

I rarely (if ever) give tests that are entirely multiple choice.  I much prefer having students demonstrate understanding of the material. Towards that end, my tests almost always include short answer *AND* essay response. I huge part of what I'm trying to teach is science literacy and the demonstrated ability to show scientific reasoning.

All students are required to finish all of the tests in class during the time provided unless I have written directions from your counselor.  There are no exceptions.

 

GRADING

I don't grade on a curve (this is subject to change for AP Physics C) and I don't give extra credit (please don't ask).

I don't grade homework or other activities that I use to help students learn (except writing assignments or projects as indicated).  Also, I don't grade formative quizzes that I use to gauge how well my classes understand the current unit.

I grade based on labs, research/writing assignments and tests. Tests are tied directly to daily learning targets (found on daily lesson plans on my website) and unit learning targets, also found on my website.

Although I do expect my students to perform at a high level throughout the course, I'm certainly aware that we all have bad days and we sometimes botch a test -- it happens.   I drop each students' worst performing score at the end of the semester to account for a bad test day. (Please Note: There is a feature in our software that I use to drop scores. I have no control over which score is dropped)

LATE WORK

Generally speaking I'm just fine with taking in work all the way up until the time I have turned it back to students. If there are extenuating circumstances, let me know and I can provide an extension.

RETAKES/REDOs

I'm a very big fan of retakes (except in AP Physics C). Sometimes we just don't do as well on a test or project as we should have the first time. However I'll never provide the same test twice. The retake will test for the same type of learning, just not in the same way.

Also, there are times when I am unsatisfied with the level of work turned in by a student on a written lab report, project or something similar. In those instances I may return it to the student and ask the student to do that work again. If a student is dissatisfied with their performance on such work, I'm usually agreeable to partial or complete rewrites AFTER a conference with me first.

Understanding the F-Bomb

Finally, I never give a student a score less than 50% on any assignment (Unless I bust someone for cheating or plagiarism)

50% is an F, if a student fails an assignment or fails to turn in an assignment, I enter 50% of whatever points are available in the grade book. Rest assured I haven't given my student anything other than an F. What I haven't done is drastically fire-bombed a student's grade by giving that student a score of less than F.

For example:

Let's say a student aces an exam worth 100 pts and scores an A on that test.  Now let's say the same student has a bad week and fails to turn in a project worth 100 points on the next test and receives a score of F.

We all know that the average of an A and an F is a C.

Now let's say we use an electronic grade book and we score the same exact results using straight points:  100 pts on the first test, 0 points on the project.  Bad news-- the average of those scores is 50 points which is an F, which is clearly inaccurate.

In those cases where a students fails to turn in an assignment or fails an assignment outright, I enter 50% of whatever points are available. In the example above I would enter 100 pts on the first test and 50 points on the failed project. The resulting average is a 75 which is what is expected.

Little Bo-Peep

Has Lost Her Sheep

And Radar Cannot Find Them

They'll All (face-to-face)

Meet in Parallel Space

Preceding their leaders behind them