Monday, January 12, 2009

Teaching Pt. 9

There are more issues to address in regards to education.


The problem of scale deals with the student to teacher ratio. We can best understand the problem of scale by considering certain examples.

Consider a class with only one student and one teacher, given enough time and effort, most of the time, the teacher can teach the student to perform perfectly on almost any test and to fully understand the material. Consider 2 students, it is still possible to do the same with both students, with a minimal expenditure of additional time. Consider more and more students, little by little the expenditure of additional time and effort increase until the individual approach to education ceases to be practical and in fact is counterproductive. The amount of time to help each student adds up until much of class time is spent simply helping each person.

So what must be researched is how to organize class time, class layout, class groups, to compensate for problems of scale. One idea is for the teacher to give an assessment test at the beginning of the class year to determine which students might need more help than others. The students who scored in the first quartile will be given first priority in help, the second quartile students will be given second priority, and the third quartile students will be given third priority.

In fact the third quartile students can be helpful in groupwork, they can help explain concepts to the second and first quartile students.

Students can be organized into groups of 2 or 3 where each group can contain a mix of 1,2, or 3rd quartile students or it might be more effective to group the first quartile students together in groups and mix the 2 or 3rd quartile students in groups. In any case these are the types of questions that education research can investigate - what are the optimum class organization methods to maximize student performance in large scale classrooms and with students of differing preparation? Maybe the optimum method must vary according the overall preparation of students in the class, meaning if the distribution of well prepared students is that of a bell curve then one method will be best, if the distribution of well prepared students is that of J-curve then another method must be employed. If the distribution is that of a rectangle then another method will be best.


Metrics are an important part of educational research because, in theory, they provide objective measures of student performance. The problem is that numbers by themselves do not provide objective information, the methods by which the numbers are obtained must also be investigated.

Some examples of metrics are assessment test, class test, quiz, homework, and classwork scores. These scores can be analyzed statistically to determine if any negative trends exist, giving the teacher prior warning of problems that may arise in the near-future. This way the teacher has time to address the problems before they shows up, which is much easier than addressing the problems when they are in full effect.

John Gonzalez


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