Jay Hooper, a calculus teacher at Centennial High School in Champaign, IL, has taken an unconventional approach to teaching. Turning his class on its head, Hooper focused on giving the students a greater chance to utilize class time. “In calculus, the students would probably really struggle on the homework and come back the next day with a ton of questions. So, you would spend half the period answering questions and then you would lecture again,” says Hooper of the traditional format. In order to maximize the time spend teaching the material and ensuring that the students have the opportunity to ask as many questions as they want. So Hooper made a change.
The complex nature of calculus was a factor that led to the new class structure. “Obviously, there are tons of real applications fo calculus, but it’s not as easy to go and gather a data set and analyze it together in class, but it’s difficult to not make calculus on a regular basis lecture-based.” Thus began the idea of moving lectures to the homework position and vice versa. This began to take shape at the Champaign school district summer institute of 2010 while brainstorming with other calculus teachers. It is this sort of collaboration that is encouraged in the EnLiST Summer Institutes. Entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviors include these collaborative efforts, such as seeking and sharing information and resources throughout network ties, activity strengthening and expanding one’s social networks.
While the program is still only in its first year, Hooper has sought to take his students’ opinions into account through a resource book. His students compiled a collection of notes on all the topics covered throughout the semester, acting as a study tool. In addition to acting as a textbook made by the students reflections were also a part of the assignment. “I was just floored by the quality of work that they did, they were just fantastic. So in [the spring semester], instead of doing this all at the end with the resource book, I’ve been doing them chapter by chapter,” says Hooper.
The video homework technology took some getting used to, but it seems that his students have grown accustomed to the new class structure. Students found the videos especially helpful when they had to miss class. “When we did reflections on each chapter, it would come back from those students having missed that day of class and there was no video they really struggled on that section for a while. The videos allowed me to be much more fluid… it kind of allowed the pace to be differentiated.” Hooper also believed the videos helped prevent the confusion that comes along with copying notes from another classmate.
EnLiST supports many projects like Hooper’s, all with the goal of using innovative teaching techniques in order to improve student understanding. To pull of a project such as this requires a time commitment; this was one of the drawbacks that Hooper cited because of the structure of this approach. It required that he dedicate additional time to create and post videos, while for the students the time spend on each portion was relatively equal, the preparation of the videos take about twice as long as traditional lectures. This places the burden on teachers and their free time, but gives the students an advantage.
Hooper explains that EnLiST allowed him to think about the project in a way that pulled it together. “I think that one of the main things EnLiST did was provide me with an environment where I would have to describe what I was doing and write it up, I was going to have to talk to other people in a group, I was going to have to think about how I was influencing other people, so it provided me a structure to think about it.” This kind of support system is an integral part of creating the innovative environment that EnLiST hopes to foster in schools. Hooper embodies the entrepreneurial qualities and leadership skills that all EnLiST Teacher Leaders utilize in order to help students.