1996 public hearing

I am the tenured Physics teacher you voted to prefer charges against on November 6, 1996, for giving "unsatisfactory lessons."

My lessons were not unsatisfactory, but simply did not employ the methods and techniques which are deemed by my supervisors to constitute good teaching. My supervisors believe in the "developmental lesson plan" with aims, motivations, pivotal questions, summaries, and recitation. The concepts to be learned in this type of lesson are supposed to be "developed" with the students in a logical manner by oral questioning. Such lessons are highly structured and entirely directed by the teacher. The teacher asks questions of the entire class and a student is called upon to answer or ask questions before the entire class. All the students are presumed to be learning in the same way and at the same rate.

My classroom experience, as well as the many seminars and workshops I attended, have convinced me that students do not learn well from this method of instruction. Student participation in this type of lesson consists mostly in paying attention. Students need to be more actively involved than this in the learning process. Children need an opportunity to process the information they are given in the classroom in order to make it their own. Students need, using a term from cognitive science, to be able to "construct" their own knowledge and cannot learn in a purely passive manner. I fully support the current efforts to improve instruction by making lessons more "learner-centered."

In my physics lessons, I believe I succeeded in providing my students with more and better opportunities to learn the subject matter. Each day I gave students a written lesson plan which contained a brief explanation of the science concept to be learned and a list of related questions, problems and activities. There are four benefits to distributing these handouts:

1. It makes explicit exactly what the student is expected to understand and to accomplish. This increases the student's responsibility for achieving the lesson's instructional objectives, because the teacher is saying to the student: "It is your job to understand these concepts. I am here to help you learn, but the ultimate responsibility for learning is on your shoulders."

2. It allows for more flexible lesson plans with a greater variety of student activities and questions. Reading, writing, paper and pencil activities, problem solving, cooperative learning, independent study, and hands-on activities are easier to include in the lesson.

3. It provides a variety of avenues for understanding: the teacher's verbal exposition, the written explanation, the problems to be solved, and one-on-one conversations with the teacher and fellow students.

4. It allows students with different levels of skills to progress at different rates. Some students have no difficulty understanding the day's concept and are able to tackle the more challenging problems and questions, while other students need more time and help in grasping the fundamental concept.

I have requested a hearing to answer the charges and expect to be fully vindicated by the hearing officers.