Over the past few weeks, I have been having a great conversation via email with Herb Gross, the founding President of AMATYC and long-term inspiration to many of us working in the first two years of college mathematics. With Herb’s kind permission, I will share some of our conversations here.
In my opinion, the face of education is going to change dramatically very shortly when we begin to use the Internet to clone “master teachers”.
Herb has a good point. In fact, many readers will respond by saying that we are already doing just this. Jack’s comment
Yes, the internet allows for distribution and re-use of good materials. The issue we need to focus on is “what makes a good teacher” or a “master teacher”.
In recent years, we have seen a couple of forces that shift our focus away from a clear image of a good teacher. One force is the “sage on the stage … guide on the side” image, where a teacher is a coach or trainer responding to students as they learn mathematics. Another force is the huge emphasis on online learning components, which is sometimes implemented as a replacement for teaching in some redesign models.
In my view, being a good teacher is a very personal experience with a group of students. When it works, students will say something like the following:
Thank you for a great semester. You have been an amazing teacher. Thank you for not giving up on any of us; you pushed me (at least) to do my best.
That is a note written to me, handed over before this student took her final exam. She did not have the best average in class, but she did work hard and was engaged during every class.
Jack’s description of good teaching:
Good teaching involves the articulation of ideas in a way that is understandable to students, creating a learning environment that encourages learning, and inspiring students to work harder than they intended.
Only a small portion of this can be cloned, or distributed across the internet. Herb has some great videos (like this one on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_qX3inNCi8&feature=youtu.be); this video is part of Herb’s work on math as a language, which you can see more about on his web site http://www.adjectivenounmath.com/
One of the many things I like about Herb’s work is that he takes a lot of time. We sometimes think that students do not have the attention span to deal with a deliberate approach; that is not generally true, and Herb gets a large amount of unsolicited positive feedback on his videos.
As good as these ‘clones’ (videos) are, they do not make a good teacher; having a master teacher articulate ideas is wonderful. This is not sufficient to be a good teacher. We need to provide clear statements concerning what the practice of teaching involves. Our colleagues need this, our leaders need this, and certainly policy makers need this.
Join Dev Math Revival on Facebook: