Monday, March 01, 2010

Teachable Moment

One of my astronomy students was in my office hours, taking a makeup exam today. I reserve the right to not give makeup exams, and this student admitted that he did not have a good excuse to miss the exam. However I decided to let him redeem himself. As he was taking the exam, one of my physics students came in to ask questions. The physics student explained that he'd arrived at the library at 7am to read the new chapter in advance of class today. He'd also started on the homework and had a few specific questions about them. We also cleared up a question that we had corresponded about via email over the weekend. The physics student thanked me, and then he left. About 15 minutes later, the astronomy student finished his exam and then told me he was sorry. He said that hearing what the physics student was doing made him realize that he could work harder. He was going to tell his friends (!) what he had heard, that there are people who actually work that hard. He just kept shaking his head, as if he'd been truly jolted.

I'm thinking this might be the best bit of peer instruction I've ever seen, and it was completely unintentional. I hope this astro student really will work harder, in all of his classes. Sometimes it is best to sit back and let the students teach each other, eh?

7 comments:

Rachel said...

Okay, that was pretty cool.
: )

Virtualbri said...

Wow, well, I think the best part is that there's still some hope left for the first student.

Dr. Lisa said...

The first student will do just fine. I have several really bright physics students this semester, prepping for the MCAT and such. They already have their bachelors degrees, but have come back to school to meet the pre-reqs for med school.

RizwanK said...

Thanks for sharing that - that was cool.

Dr. Lisa said...

Astro kid has started asking questions in class!

Doctor Pion said...

Awesome! The kid cracked the book?

This can be institutionalized by getting former students to talk to current ones. I've had some luck with that, but the best time was when I had a foreign-educated engineer in a physics class. (He didn't have formal credit for the 2nd semester course required for licensing in our state.) He opened a lot of eyes.

Dr. Lisa said...

The kid is actually asking questions in class now. We'll see how he does on the next test!

I'd love to have more students come back and open some eyes. Great idea... (thinking of an implementation plan).