Prioritize Questions

On Cutting Content to Prioritize Student Questions

For the last few weeks in my summer courses, I've been frustrated that I'm constantly running over time by about 5 minutes (every night in a 3-hour session). Not great, particularly when the session ends with the culminating problem of the evening, and I really want students to have time to try one while I'm present to help them out.

A related issue is that I've been entertaining more questions at the start of class than maybe I'm accustomed to in the recent past (frequently the first 30 min out of the 3 hours). So between the two -- and for a long time I've thought that this is actually the fundamental task of a college instructor -- I sit down at the end of the night and try to CUT OUT something from my presentation for the next time. (At this point, over the years, it's been cut so much to the bare bones that it feels like the only thing left is amputating formerly key concepts or problems.)

But it has to be that way. Principle: Of everything I can do during class time, answering student questions is the most important and must be prioritized. If I'm fortunate enough to have a student who's done homework, and arrives interested and asking good questions (not all questions being good ones), then the best thing I can do is to highlight and answer those questions. That's the ultimate competitive advantage we have in teaching classes with a live, expert instructor present.

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