Penny... Penny... Penny...

Whilst looking for videos to use in class I stumbled across this section of the Big Bang Theory that analogues historical physics teaching so perfectly that I had to share it. Sheldon, despite all his passion for the subject and knowledge of it's history cannot engage Penny, because she has a different set of interests and targets in mind...

I am sure that this is many people's experience of the subject - a dry and mathematically demanding subject, of little relevance to what interests them.  At one point Sheldon even falls into the "taught my dog to whistle" trap when he exclaims "How can you not know - I just told you!?" In the end she regurgitates a very impressive description, obviously learnt by rote, but shows no understanding, save for the history of the fig roll. The parallels with students learning how to jump through hoops in exams, quoting formulae and cranking numbers without proper understanding are again striking.

Into the mixture we now throw two interesting articles from the BBC, both reporting on research carried out in education. The first comments on the Nuffield foundation reports findings - that the mathematics is leaching out of science,  the second recounts demands by students who want to learn maths but struggle with abstract examples.
Students want a mathematical ability with practical application. Physics provides this but suffers from image from old school teaching.

So I guess this is where we come in, the teachers, we have to continue to work hard to develop our practice through using things like assessment for learning and current technologies to deliver a relevant, interesting, mathematically inclusive course - remembering all the time to differentiate enough to make it work for the Pennys and the Sheldons of the future.

My own approach to solving this task is to combine the enthusiasm of Sheldon, relevance, the ideas of accelerated learning, and finally AfL, into something that maps out like this;

How do you do it?

Written on June 20, 2017