Learning Environment

“Lecturing” or repeating ideas from assigned readings is an ineffective approach to supporting your learning. Instead, ­effective teaching and learning require engaged, reflective participation. My role as an instructor is to create experiences that push you to think differently and deeply about mathematics, how it is taught, and who can learn so that you develop the skills, practices, and dispositions of well-prepared beginning teachers. In order to make the best use of our time together, I create experiences aimed at pushing you to reflect on, question, and (re)imagine ideas from assigned readings, previous class sessions, and your own personal experiences.

I strongly believe that the best way for you to learn is to be actively engaged in making sense of new ideas and challenged to examine your pre-existing notions. Thus, we will spend most of our class time engaged in small group activities or whole class discussions. Your role as a student is to engage thoroughly, thoughtfully, reflectively, and critically with the course activities and assignments. Presentations, small group activities, and discussions will provide you with information not found in the readings. Failure to meet expectations for weekly engagement will negatively impact your overall course evaluation. Read more about what quality class participation involves.

How to be successful in this course:

Plan for space and time to think deeply and critically: You should plan to work on the major course assignment – planning a student-centered, problem-based mathematics lesson – over the multiple weeks we are together. Learning to lesson plan takes thoughtful application of ideas from the course and critical reflection on your previous work and my feedback. You should expect to revisit and refine your lesson plan each week. Similarly, you should plan to complete weekly readings and tasks well in advance of class so that you have time to process ideas before meeting to discuss and engage deeply with them. You should expect to spend a minimum of 1-3 hours per week outside of class completing readings, weekly tasks, and major assignments.

Challenge ideas, not people: As we engage in (sometimes) challenging conversations, it is important to remember that ideas, not individuals, are open to critique. We all have opinions and ideas, some of which we hold or believe in strongly. As we are all here to learn from each other, we must all contribute to the establishment and maintenance of a safe social environment that allows us as participants to engage critically with ideas but avoids attaching or disparaging individuals.

Ask questions: Questions represent an opportunity to learn. Sometimes students hesitate to ask questions because they fear they may “sound dumb” or go against what is thought to be the opinion of the majority. Questions, however, can be an indication of one’s engagement with the subject matter. Do not self-censor; your questions may lead to an improved understanding for the whole class.

©Frances K. Harper, 2019