I’m taking a physics class over the summer. It’s five weeks of monday – friday 9am – 4pm and largely unstructured. We’re working through an inquiry curriculum at our own pace, or nearly our own pace. We’re working either with a partner, or in groups of three. I’ve been working with a toxic partner the entire time, and it’s definitely put a big damper on the experience.
Each section of the curriculum begins with a pre-test. Throughout the sections, there are checkout points where you have a discussion with an instructor.
In the grand scheme of things, this is fantastic. If you need more time to learn something, you take more time. Easy learning means you can move as fast as your pen can write down the answers.
But if you come in with a large amount of physics knowledge, you still start off at square one in their curriculum. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. So with the exception of a few scattered moments throughout the last 4 weeks, I’ve been bored out of my mind. I find myself dragging out the parts where we run an experiment, simply because there is a bit more to think about with reducing experimental error. Out of 20 pre-tests, there are only 2 where I was not confident in my answer. One of those I was wrong. The set-up is there, why can’t they actually look at the pre-tests, and use it to better choose a starting place?
It’s a shame to have everything in place for totally tailored instruction, and stop just short.
p.s. No one, except the head instructor knows how our grades are calculated. It does take the discussion of points and grubbing for A’s off the table, but it is also introducing a mild fear of the instructors. Knowing that the grade won’t be lowered for personality conflicts would take a big edge off the stress of this class.
p.p.s. As I am reading a book on project based learning, I am realizing that I have taken on a monumental task in trying to do project based learning correctly.