Monday, August 30, 2010

The tiger in the tank

Some of the best teaching moments occur during individual consultation periods when the kids actually come with questions to discuss. I've learned my lesson about focusing my consults on content -- don't offer them any more than they themselves have offered already. Telling them what info they should have included here and there when they didn't have such info in the first place just demoralizes them and makes them feel like they're never going to catch up with the bar we keep raising.

More content isn't going to help, especially when it wasn't their content to begin with. My strategy from now is to focus on extending mileage on what information they already have, always with the caveat that in the interim between now and their finals there's still time to build up more content on their own.

I think that's the best strategy to take into the exam hall because that's exactly what they're expected to produce. The test is on maximizing what they have brought into the venue, that's it. There's nowhere else they can get more content from, not till they change the nature of the test anyway.

Some ground rules we established from today's discussion:

  • Absolute #1 rule: Always tell the Truth -- don't know, don't write.
  • Reasoning counts for more than content.
  • Broad-based content produces more mileage than focused topical content.
  • Content is flexible and can be used to respond to many questions
  • Good responses strongly link supporting content with question requirements.
  • Argument always precedes balance, and not the other way around.
  • Every question must be taken on its own merit. There is no "aren't I supposed to...?" If the question does not ask for it, don't.
  • Time taken to analyse question requirements is better use of time than planning (or worse, committing to) a response without first knowing what the question wants.

No particular order of importance, though. It's not a process but guidelines to keep in mind. Yes, very common-sense, but a guided-analytical approach is far better than the panic-vomit approach.

It was particularly enlightening when a kid asked me to analyse an Economics question because she didn't understand why her interpretation was deemed wrong by both her own mates and the Econs tutor. I told her to use the GP method of analysing questions on this one. She was dubious at first, but a lightbulb went on as she proceeded. Now she could clearly see what the question wanted and why her answer was so far off base.

Arby always remarks how the kids don't seem to think when they approach questions in his subject. Perhaps they didn't have the right tools and the know-how to use them correctly in the first place. Ladies and gentlemen, today we might have made a breakthrough! Hope this time it has longer legs.

No comments: