Cumberland Times-News

Columns

August 24, 2013

Textbooks also vital source for learning

One of the key ways to learn is by reading a text or manual.

But when one starts to teach a class (whether it be middle school, high school or intro college classes), most students assume that the teacher will tell them orally all the essential ideas, facts, methods, etc. needed to score well on the tests and quizzes.

This is not what teachers hope for, but it is the reality for most classes. There may be a few well motivated students who will spend adequate time working through the test study guides and sample tests.

I had a Cumberland student in my summer physics classes, who would show me her answers to the supplemental work that I put on the Web for my class.

So how can teachers get most students in their classes to make a significant effort to learn from the text in addition to studying class notes? I have concluded there is no simple way. But there is a way, requiring a considerable effort on the part of a teacher.

Here is my approach. Take each test and divide it in half. The first half will be done by two students (a partnered test). The second half will be done by the individual student.

To entice (not force) students to work through the text, I put out an elaborate set of study questions for each chapter on the Web. Then I tell the students at the start of the class that they can answer these study questions on loose leaf paper and put these materials in a folder that they can use in their partnered test. (No other aids permitted.)

To ensure that the student’s work is their own, I require that the folder material be hand printed or written neatly in cursive handwriting, no typed work allowed.

At the start of the individual test, I collect the folders from those students who have worked through my study questions for the chapters covered on the test. The materials in the folders will be graded on a scale of up to 20 points, which will be added to a student’s points.

In my classes, I give from three to four class tests. So a hard working student who does folders with all the study question answers for each test may gain from 60 to 80 points (out of a total of 1,000 points). This is clear reward (and incentive) for students who learn from the text book chapters.

The students who don’t want to turn in a folder, relying on course notes only, may realize that some of their classmates have an edge in gathering points. They may start doing a folder for the second or subsequent tests. Incidentally, I don’t allow the use of folders on any cumulative final exam.

In this approach, I spend about three times as much time grading test related material; first the partnered tests, second the folder material and lastly the individual test.

I don’t use machine graded tests. I hand grade my tests so I can print my corrections. The students receive back their tests to keep. The serious students will also spend more time on the course.

I compose the study questions for each chapter. These questions cover the main concepts of each chapter and include some thought questions, where understanding and analysis is required.

When I write the test items, I refer to the study questions and compose items that are somewhat related. In this way, a student who really understood the text chapters would be able to answer the test items more easily.

I invite any readers, whether student, teachers or learners to comment or critique my approach. There are likely other approaches that encourage most students to carefully read and learn from a textbook.

Or course, the text must be carefully selected so it is understandable to students with adequate reading skills. My email is rdoyle@frostburg.edu .

SKY EVENTS AHEAD: The moon is best seen in the a.m. hours (tonight it rises about 10:30 p.m.) and can be easily seen in the early daylight hours.

On Aug. 21, the moon will appear half full in the southern dawn sky. With the absence of the moon from the early evening hours, this week will be an ideal time to spot the Milky Way from a dark sky area.

Drive away from streetlights and brightly illuminated stores. Once in a dark area, let your eyes become dark adapted so the rods in your retina become more sensitive and your pupils dilate or expand to let in the most light.

This can take more than a few minutes. I go out to a local cemetery and just sit in my car seat listening to the radio for a while.

The Milky Way runs across the sky from the northeastern horizon through nearly the top of the sky and then down to the southern horizon. This glow is caused by the combined light of innumerable distant stars and gas clouds.

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
Columns
  • We concur We concur

    We’re certain that Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, echoes what many Americans feel about the complexity of filing income tax returns.
    When he filed his return, Rumsfeld sent the following letter to the Internal Revenue Service:

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Library week

    Public libraries remain one of the best uses of taxpayer dollars. They are open to all. Young or old, poor or wealthy, residents can use computers and read current magazines and newspapers. Compact discs featuring a wide variety of music and
    movies on DVD may be checked out in addition to novels and other books.

    April 13, 2014

  • Terps need to move and move quickly

    The good news is Maryland will never have to play another basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Goodbye, good riddance, sayonara, smell ya, no more of you, stay classy, we won’t let the door hit us on the way out.
    Until we see you in court.

    April 13, 2014

  • Sunday hunting Sunday hunting

    Legislation that increases hunting oppportunities on Sundays in Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties has passed the Maryland General Assembly and reached the governor’s desk.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • You’ll never guess who the real hero was (He was six feet tall and bulletproof)

    Most folks know about the 20th Maine’s bayonet charge that repulsed the Rebels at Little Round Top because they watched the movie, “Gettysburg.”
    Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy post ourselves a hundred yards or so away from where it happened in real life. Tourists frequently ask us how to find it.

    April 13, 2014

  • Early morning lunar eclipse this Tuesday

    For the first time since 2011, our area may see a total lunar eclipse as the moon will pass through the Earth’s deep shadow.

    April 13, 2014

  • Big bucks How many deer on Green Ridge?

    A study completed in 2013 by a master’s degree candidate at the University of Delaware showed that there are 20 to 30 deer per square mile on the Green Ridge State Forest, including some pretty darn nice bucks.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Then again, he’s manager of the Yankees, and I’m not

    I went to bed confused Wednesday night, which in itself is nothing new. But having
    watched most of the Orioles-Yankees game, including the final three innings, earlier
    in the evening, then watching the late Baseball Tonight before I turned in, I was under the impression that the Yankees had won the game when I was pretty sure before watching the show that the Orioles had won.

    April 11, 2014

  • Who knows how many times she poisoned him?

    My dad used to say that if tobacco and coffee tasted as good as they smelled, the world would be a better place.

    April 5, 2014

  • Rusty writes about the nature of doghood

    I am a dog.
    Therefore I bark.
    I don’t understand why it is so hard for humans to understand this.
    I mean, there are certain things that come with the territory, right?

    April 5, 2014