BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
Saul Bruckner, Principal
October 5, 1994
Mr. David Roemer
Dear Mr. Roemer,
After erasing the board and writing the assignment "Read P 39-44" on the board you asked if there were any questions about the homework. One question was asked and you asked the youngster to place the "sketch" on the board. You asked the youngster questions which led to the correction of the "sketch" and you told the class that the best way to learn the equation for them to memorize it. You started to tell the class what it was going to do for the day and without any word or comment you left the room. When you returned you told the class that it would do five experiments which would show the connection between force and motion. The students had been given a sheet with the aim "What is a force" and statements from Newton and Aristotle. You told the class the first person to make this observation was Aristotle and you asked the class "Can everyone see what Aristotle said - can you see the Aristotelian statement. If you read it carefully it looks the same as the Newton statement" and said, "If you read it carefully they look the same but are really different." You then told the class to break up into groups of 2, 3 or 4. A student said she didn't understand and you said "Does anyone see the difference between the Aristotelian and Newtonian statements? I want you to make the observations. If they both say the same things the observations are correct." You told the class that you would do the first experiment and they would do the force diagram. A student asked what was the answer to the first experiment and you said "I'd rather you discuss it with your group." Another student asked if you wanted the calculations or just "true or false". You then gave a demonstration of a ball rolling on a table. A youngster asked the meaning of the word "net" as used in Newton's law of inertia. A student challenged your statement that the rolling ball did not create friction and you agreed that it created some friction but that you wanted them to "pretend doesn't stop" and agreed that a "small amount does exist." The students then started to work in their groups. At 11:05 with 20 minutes left to the period the group at my table had finished their discussion of "experiments." By 11:20 groups next to me had finished discussion and were talking about other things.
The lesson was in great need of improvement for the following reasons:
1) You never helped the youngsters understand the meaning of the two statements attributed to Aristotle and Newton. As I walked around I heard students state that they did not understand the meaning of the statements and 1 question concerning the meaning of the word "net" asked. You should have started the lesson with a discussion of the meaning of the statements so that the students all knew what they meant.
2)The assignment listed pages 29-44. There was no guidance as to what the students should look for or do other than read. There was no direction given to the assignment. A homework assignment should provide a guide to students.
3) The students were asked to write their observations of the experiments, listed on the sheets. Yet only 1 tennis ball was available for the entire class and the group at my table never conducted any experiment. If you want students to observe phenomena they should be given access to the materials needed for the observation.
4) In response to a question you admitted that your statement that a ball rolling on a table created no friction was not correct but that you wanted students to pretend or imagine that it didn't. If you were asking students for scientific observations you should not have asked them to pretend.
5) Group work is an admirable method for enhancing student involvement in the lesson and for helping students work together. But group work doesn't just happen. Students have to be given tasks in a group and directions for effective group functioning. A captain or chairperson, recorder and/or a facilitator should be selected and given specific tasks. Groups should also be organized rather than asking students to organize into 2, 3, or 4 person groups.
6) By 11:05, with 20 minutes left to the period three groups were no longer engaged on the assignment. By 11:20 with five minutes left only one group still was engaged in discussion and the volume of student noise was rising. You could have used this time to go over the observations with the entire class.
7)There was no closure, summary, or conclusion to the lesson. Individual groups were told whether their diagrams were correct or not but there was no conclusion for the class as a whole. A student at my table went to show you the diagrams only because I sent her to you. She returned to the group and said "the diagrams were wrong but she didn't know why". She also said "I don't think any of us know the answer."
A constructivist approach is designed to give students the opportunity to discover things and to construct their own knowledge. But constructivism doesn't take place in a vacuum. The role of the teacher is to provide structure in which students can get involved and develop insights. The teacher must still help the students understand what it is that they are going to do.
During our conference we briefly discussed the telephone calls from parents which are being received by Mr. Cohen and myself. We want you to succeed so that students will continue to register for physics and will enjoy the subject while they learn it. Your plan to observe your colleagues and with them to plan lessons is positive. However if you are to succeed you must strike a balance between the extreme models of a teacher dominated classroom and a student oriented classroom. There is a happy medium in which the teacher provides structure and guidance and yet makes it possible for students to become involved in various types of activity.
In my next visit I will be looking for progress in the area of finding a lesson which provides both teacher guidance and student activity.
Superintendent Joyce Coppin
class observed - SP11.05 Physics 1
date of observation - 9/29/94
date of conference - 10/3/94
I have read and received a copy of this report and understand a copy will be placed in my file.
David K. Roemer (signed)