Throughout high school, courses are taught in a variety of ways, usually depending on the teacher of the subject. Some schools allow educators to teach their subject in their own unique fashion as long as they follow the basic course curriculum. This freedom to change one’s style of teaching allows educators to alter their style of teaching in a way that they believe will best benefit the students. Here, at Steinbrenner High School, Lela VanLoon uses a unique style of teaching that allows students to excel while learning her difficult subject matter.
“My classroom is very student-centered and student-driven. Students do the talking the vast majority of the time,” said VanLoon.
Vanloon’s classroom is completely built around the idea that students should communicate all of their thoughts on the current subject matter of physics, so that general discussion can expand. Doing so allows students to pinpoint which of their thoughts are correct and which of their thoughts need to be corrected. Once the ideas have been expressed and the reasoning behind them has been presented, a class discussion ensues. During class discussion, all students in the classroom provide their thoughts on the subject and students end up trying to prove or disprove each other’s ideas, generating thought-provoking material along the way.
“My teaching style aims to target misconceptions and isolate what they understood or didn’t understand,” said VanLoon.
By using the process of mass discussion, many ideas that were not previously thought of by students come forth and are then able to be explained. Of the ideas that have come forth, all of them will be explained and then ruled as correct or incorrect as to eliminate future mistakes within the class. This is extremely important as physics continuously builds upon itself as the year progresses; not understanding a physics topic early in the year may lead to issues later in the year with more difficult subject material.
“What we try to target in my class is not only the math but also the meaning behind every single variable. Students need to use various representations,” said VanLoon.
Once ideas have been set in place, VanLoon then has her students define the previously learned material in the form of a student-run presentation. Students are required to explain ideas including the meaning of the slope of a graph, the meaning of a y-intercept on a graph, and the meaning of an equation to the class via white-board presentations. Students are also required to explain how they created graphs, equations, and how they found variables in order to prove their knowledge of the subject. During these white-board presentations, peers ask questions to the presenting students in order to target as many misconceptions as possible during the class period.
Overall, VanLoon’s teaching style allows students to excel in physics through its interactivity and capabilities of targeting misconceptions. As VanLoon continues to express her teaching style within Steinbrenner, and as the school continues to express more interest in said style, her methods of teaching students about physics will only continue to improve.
Josh Yaker // Staff Writer