Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

October 12, 2013

Teachers can convert those shallow learners

In my last column, I proposed that learners in a class might be divided into three levels.

Shallow learners are mainly concerned with their grades; how much they learn is of minor importance to them.

Shallow learners rely heavily on what is presented in class and get little from reading the text. Memorization is their main learning process. If test questions are not those covered in class, they feel these questions are unfair.

Middle learners are concerned both with what they learn and their final grade. They understand that their own efforts out of class contribute to their own learning. If they get confused, they are more apt to ask questions or to talk to the teacher out of class.

Middle learners see the value of homework and answering suggested questions (such as from a test study guide) to engage their learning.

Deep learners are rare but spotted easily by a teacher. They have their own agenda in learning, often reading ahead in text or delving into other material. They realize that what they learn is mainly through their own efforts.

They don’t really care that much about their classmates’ opinions; so they often ask questions well beyond the level of their peers. They are self-directed learners and will continue to learn well past their graduation (life-long learners).

Two famous scientists that were deep learners are Newton and Einstein. In other fields, deep learners include Mozart, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln , the great philosophers of ancient Greece, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

Most students will not fall exactly in one of the above categories but along a scale (shallow at 1, middle at 5 and deep at 9). The scale will change depending on the subject.

Realistically, teachers can only hope to convert shallow learners to middle learners by the end of a four-month course. Most students come into a class with a strong feelings about the subject.

For example, students beginning an introductory course in calculus (from the Latin word for rocks) may feel that this course is going to be difficult and painful. Early on, they will look for signs that their expectations are correct. Not understanding a point made by the teacher will cause discomfort.

Often students don’t bring their texts to class or even look at the text before class, relying exclusively on what they teacher can relate. Often, after a class, you will hear student comments as “I didn’t understand a word in that class.”

This student hopes that their fellow classmates will sympathize with them. (The student’s statement is a huge exaggeration; they are focusing on a few portions of the class presentation.)

 So an instructor in his/her class should try to persuade shallow students that they can have a chance of succeeding.

How can this be done? Graded worksheets are the way for my classes. In each worksheet, my students have to write some response, that could range from a personal opinion about a situation (subjective) to a numerical answer (where a problem is presented as well as an example worked out by the instructor).

Unfortunately, there is a price that the teacher must pay — the worksheets must be graded and returned to the student. (If there is no payback, the students will file away or dispose of the returned worksheets.) The worksheets must also present some of the concepts in language that will be useful to the student in reviewing.

I also remark to the students that I will not take test items word for word from the worksheets. Understanding and applying concepts is the goal. A necessary first step is to know the basic vocabulary, laws and principles so one can understand and apply main ideas.

The graded worksheets constitute about 40 percent of the total points in my classes; it is only fair that students be rewarded for applying the course ideas in class.

Just as last week’s column, I invite any readers to comment or critique my ideas through email rdoyle@frostburg.edu.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: The evening moon will grow to full on Oct. 18. This full moon is called the Hunters’ Moon, offering extra evening moonlight through next weekend.

On Oct. 16, the long awaited comet ISON appears 2 degrees north of the bright star Regulus in the dawn sky. (The Big Dipper’s pointer stars point upward and southward towards Regulus, the bright star in the sickle of Leo.)

Also on Oct. 16, the brilliant planet Venus will appear 1.5 degrees above the pinkish star Antares in the Scorpion in the southwestern dusk.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

1
Text Only
Bob Doyle - Astronomy
  • FSU Planetarium has new outreach program

    Several years ago, the FSU planetarium acquired an iPad. Months later, we purchased an iPad projector with necessary cables. I purchased a number of astronomical apps this year for the iPad. So I’m interested in visiting schools in this county to teach the stars and planets to classes. The astronomical apps allow you to survey the current evening night sky and show the planets, bright stars and star groups. One of the apps shows the planets close up with wonderful surface detail (as if you were cruising by in a spaceship). The apps I’ll be using can be purchased from the iTunes app store for a few dollars.

    July 27, 2014

  • It’s hotter here than in D.C. or Baltimore

    At this time of the year, the weather is a frequent subject of conversation, particularly the temperatures. We are now in the “Dog Days,” usually the hottest days of the year. The term comes from our sun appearing to be near the “Dog Star” (Sirius) and the “Little Dog Star” (Procyon). In reality, the sun is now about 94.5 million miles away while Sirius is 8.6 light years away with Procyon at 11 light years distance. Sunlight takes only 507 seconds to reach us, while the two dog stars’ light takes about a decade to travel to our eyes. So our sun is in the same direction (but not distance) as these two bright winter evening stars.

    July 20, 2014

  • Fronts, highs, lows determine weather

    Weather news on television and internet focus on violent weather, extreme temperatures and flooding.

    July 13, 2014

  • A long and winding road faces our food

    Last week’s column dealt with organs you can do without, our DNA (molecular blueprint for our bodies) and hair. My reference is “Body: Discover What’s Beneath Your Skin,” a Miles Kelly Book, written by John Farndon and Nicki Lampon and published in 2010. This column will consider finger and toe nails, breathing and coughing, saliva, mucus and your food’s long and torturous journey. Most cities and mid sized towns have nail shops where you can have your finger nails and toe nails adorned. Nail painting can be traced back 5,000 years.

    July 6, 2014

  • Here’s a look at what goes on inside you

    In high school, my favorite science course was biology. I can remember Mr. Munley in his wheelchair. Our class went on a field trip to the University of Miami Medical School where we saw the cadavers used by the medical students.

    June 28, 2014

  • Moon-watching easy when you know how

    Long before the first writing (scratches on clay tablets) appeared, our early ancestors noticed that the moon went through a regular cycle of shapes in about 30 days.

    June 21, 2014

  • Here’s how you can tell the stars, planets

    How can one tell one star from another at night? It’s a matter of knowing the sky areas (constellations).

    June 15, 2014

  • Smithsonian guide to stars is a good one

    At a local book store, I yielded to temptation and bought “Stars and Planets,” a Smithsonian Nature Guide written by four authors. Dinwoodie, Gater, Sparrow and Stott. It’s another Dorling Kindersley product with ISBN 978-0-7566-9040-3 and a 2012 copyright. “Stars and Planets” is a trade size paperback that is beautifully illustrated with appealing diagrams. “Stars and Planets” begins with the biggest topic, the Universe. There is a striking visual showing the known universe on the hugest scale, a delicate lacework of superclusters of galaxies with large voids. It resembles a bubble bath!

    June 8, 2014

  • Think a little more and be less frazzled

    Last Sunday’s column dealt with using technology carefully in education. What about technology in everyday life? There is a marvelous book “The Thinking Life,” by P.M. Forni, of The Johns Hopkins University which addresses this issue as well as timeless suggestions for living by Greek and Roman thinkers. “The Thinking Life: How To Thrive in the Age of Distraction” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2011 with ISBN 978-0-312-62571-9. Dr. Forni also wrote “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution”.

    May 25, 2014

  • Technology helps with learning, but take care

    Since I have been involved in teaching, two different technologies have been applied to learning at the secondary and collegiate level. The first was video (from videocassettes to DVDs) where a student or class might watch a presentation of some historical event, or a set of scientific principles or even a simulated exploration of the human body.

    May 18, 2014

Latest news
Facebook
Must Read
House Ads