Class Management I

Class management is the “teaching” side of science teaching that I often struggle with. I enjoy the science and I enjoy contact with students. If I didn’t like those, I wouldn’t have much of an excuse to do what I do. On the other hand, class management is something that I do reluctantly and without great skill. Class management starts with the syllabus. Some things I put on the syllabus are the “no-brainer” stuff like a student should attend class, be punctual, work individually when that is required, and obey safety rules. I used to think that it is not necessary to state the obvious, but I learned that I had better. Some of the syllabus address course organization expectations that may be different from other classes such as rules regarding group work, online submission of assignments, extra credit opportunities, teacher expectations for the lab notebook, etc… These often are refined from year to year and students find new ways to misinterpret and/or abuse the rules. For example, what if a student hands in a lab report for a laboratory he or she did not do? Why would anybody think of doing something like that in the first place? After the student expectation are stated, then comes the consequences if the expectations are not met. Usually, I use loss of points as motivation to adhere to expectations. There is not much else that motivates students like points that count towards a grade. (See previous post for that discussion.) It would be more fun to offer positive incentives, but I’m not sure if the “popcorn party” still works with college students.  I wonder if group rewards would be effective. For example, if there are no absences the whole semester for a lab section they win some kind of reward.

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