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Friday, February 11, 2011

Why whiteboarding is going better.

So I made a shift in my class. The circle wasn't working out so well. Students were not discussing and lots of side conversations kept springing up. So I moved towards a presentation style format where one group gets up and presents to the rest of the class. Worked much better. The students were engaged. The students were debating. The students told me later how much fun class was. I love my job.

I think the shift is when only one group is up there is no confusion about who should be talking. When I had two groups go up today the silence happened again. No one took control. Once I had the other groups sit down conversation started again. Very curious to me!

I had a breakthrough with one of my students this week. On Tuesday we were in discussion and she asked me a question about force pairs. I told her I wasn't sure what the answer was. She replied in exasperation, "Yes you DO know the answer! You just want me to have to think!" Yes, Tiffany, yes I do.

Today she struck again. I gave out a quiz today. She glanced at it and said, "This is what we did yesterday."
"Yes," I replied."
"And this question is what we did earlier in the week!"
"And I know this one too!"
"Tiffany, are you complaining that you understand everything on the quiz?"
"*chuckles* I guess I am! It's just not a very usual occurrence for me!"


  1. It's kind of funny. I just switched over to presentation style whiteboard discussions last week as well. It is totally awesome that we had Don and Laura to learn from. Two very different modellers with very different styles.

  2. When you do presentation style, are the boards all the same problem/lab or different?

  3. Hey Frank,

    I still do where 2 or three groups do a certain problem. The first group presents and then subsequent groups come up after. If there are glaring confusion I will pull another group up earlier for a comparison. I find that I'm getting better at circulating while they are creating boards so most of the huge errors are gone before the discussion starts. (Although of course I let some through that happen often so they can be dispelled through the power of the circle!)

    I find that my students are much more focused this way but I don't want to abandon the circle completely. I think you just need to switch it up every now and again.

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  5. Bryan, I tried this recently too. I think it really depends on the class. But continuing with Frank's question I think it definitely matters whether all groups have the same information on their boards or not. If all of the boards are the same I think I would stick with the circle.

  6. I think that is probably a good point. Like a post-lab whiteboard session would probably be better in a circle. Homework problems are better maybe in a presentation style. Actually I think both are fine. Sometimes it is nice to switch things up a bit.