Our first Provisions session of the Spring Semester explored the theme of” Teaching Non-Majors.” Presenters shared previous experience with teaching both non-major and majored students, and their effective strategies for improving success for a variety of students. An audience of approximately 25 faculty and staff members attended to hear presentations from Laura Kinney, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Angela Ledford, Professor of Political Science, and James D. Teresco, Associate Professor of Computer Science.

Laura Kinney started off the session with the topic of “Guiding Students in Mathematics Inquiry.” Laura began her presentation by stating that she views her introductory math courses (Math 100-Exploration in Numbers and Math 105- Exploration in Geometry) as an “invitation to learn and develop math creativity.” Laura discussed her method of teaching as being rooted in inquiry. The most important component of the class for her students is their opportunity to not know what happens next. She allows her students to ask questions without having to supply an answer, and because of this, her students ask many questions. The most important sentence in her classes is “I don’t know.” Laura stressed throughout her presentation that it is okay not to know the answers because it allows the students an opportunity to discover something. In order to create this inquiry climate, Laura encouraged the audience to make their classrooms a welcoming, patient and an interesting environment. To do this, it is important to promote openness for questioning, create boundaries to maintain a focal point, and promote hospitality that is free of judgement. She believes that inquiry encourages students to think using a variety of measures including observations, opportunity to try something new, opportunity to ask questions, uncertainty, and curiosity.

To access the materials that Laura provided the audience with, click below:

Angela Ledford was next to present about her experience teaching political ideologies to both non-major students and majored students. Through introspection of her own teaching methods, Angela discovered that she teaches her majored and non-majored students exactly the same. Angela guides her students to read critically by asking three questions, (1) what is the author’s conception of human nature, (2) what key concepts are given and how are they understood, and (3) what is the ultimate conclusion/vision for society. For each primary source read (a different ideology from those such as John Locke, Karl Marx, etc.), Angela asks her students to answer the three questions, which will ultimately lead the students to understand liberalism at the end of the course. In addition, Angela suggests that her students read the primary sources as a narrative, in order to better understand the material. The two main objectives that Angela hopes her students learn are how (1) to take critical notes on difficult readings, and (2) to understand the importance and relevance of political science.

Last to present was James (Jim) D. Teresco on Teaching Computer Graphics to Non-Majors.” Jim noted that one of the most common challenges he faces when teaching computer-grpahics to non-majors is engaging an uninterested audience. One way in which he engages the students is by allowing them to create something small within the first few classes. Completing a small task early on gives the students hope for learning the more difficult content of the course. Jim said that an important learning objective of his course is for the students to learn to navigate a real program that can be used in their future careers. Three other learning objectives of the computer graphic course are (1) problem solving, (2) digital literacy, and (3) general computer skills (Mac software). In general, students do not know what to expect when entering a computer science course, and therefore teaching this course is like  “starting from scratch.” Jim stated that teaching a course to non-majors requires patience for several reasons, such as (1) students may come to class unprepared, (2) students do not want to take the class but are required to, (3) some students do not care about the class and will therefor do the minimum amount of work, and (4) catering to a diverse population of student interests. When teaching this course to both majored students and non-majors, Jim faces many challenges including:

  • Fear/lack of confidence
  • “Shockingly” weak math skills
  • Poor spelling
  • Resentment of the liberal education requirement
  • Inability or unwillingness to follow instructions

In ending the presentation, Jim emphasized that learning is hard, but the pain is all part of the learning process that ultimately leads to success.

Following the presentations, the floor was opened up for discussion and questions from the audience.

Please join us for our upcoming Tuesday, March 22nd session on “Teaching Online”Provisions’ sessions are from 12:00-1:15 in Standish A&B. All are welcome and no reservations are required. Free lunch and refreshments will be available! Hope to see you all there!!


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