Friday, 12 December 2014

When teacher thinks their idea is great – but…

I’m sure that this is an experience that most of us who are teachers can relate to. It certainly isn’t the first time it has happened to me. That great new idea you have, that’s going to be a fun, motivating, engaging activity – and then – crash and burn!

A few days ago I was introducing a new topic to my oldest group of biology students – Grade 12 or Matayom 6 here in Thailand. I told them that we would be studying hormones and the endocrine system, at which point giggling and whispers started going around the room. The cause of the amusement:  Hormones – The Series. This is a popular, somewhat risqué (for Thailand) teen-soap. According to Wikipedia, it takes some of its inspiration from the UK show Skins, which was also somewhat controversial in some of its portrayals of teen life.

Anyway, after class had finished I thought – what a great learning opportunity! Instead of what I had originally planned for the students to do over the New Year break - work in groups, do some background research on a hormone of their choice, then give a presentation based on their findings to the rest of the class – why not have them make a video! A scripted, acted play, in which group members took on different roles – one person would be the hormone, another could be the receptor molecule, the “villain” could be a disease associated with their particular hormone and so on. All good, 21st Century Skills; creative, collaborative stuff!

So I prepared a PowerPoint slide mock-up of publicity posters from Hormones – The Series. I prepared the outline brief for their task. I went to class and announced their next assignment, expecting an overwhelmingly positive response to my creative and innovative use of the learning opportunity that arose in our previous class. And was greeted by a chorus of groans!
“Make a video – really?” and “Why can’t we just take down notes?”

So, somewhat deflated – the “disease as villain” was an off-the-cuff addition to try and garner more enthusiasm for my idea – I pressed on regardless. To be fair to my students, many of them were fairly swift in beginning to storyboard an outline for their video – an example of something learned in English classes being transferred to science – so I don’t want to be too harsh on them. It’s just that moment when you realize that your own enthusiasm for a new approach to teaching the same material doesn’t necessarily always translate well for your students. I’m withholding judgment as to whether I will repeat this assignment until I’ve seen the finished products. Although I imagine they will produce some entertaining videos. If any of them are scientifically accurate enough I may even post them online…

The students in question listening to a guest speaker.