Liza: Coping with the “it won’t work with my students” argument

I gave a talk October 28th at a NCTM Regional Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The focus of my talk was how using IBL and Team Based Learning (TBL) has transformed my math classes. The talk was going really well until about ten minutes before it was scheduled to end. A teacher raised his hand and commented that IBL and TBL would never work with his students. The justification that he provided for his argument is that his students are way behind grade level (he was a high school remedial math teacher) and are unmotivated to do anything. He said that they don’t care about their grades or whether they graduate. He felt that his students would actually refuse to participate in IBL or TBL activities. My immediate response was to ask the teacher what a typical day looks like in his classroom. He responded that he lectures on a topic at the board and then gives the students an assignment related to his lecture. He said that the students will not complete the assignment on their own and that he typically has to spoon feed them the answers. At this point I realized that there was not enough time left in the session for me to “solve” the teacher’s conundrum. I told him and the others that I would share helpful reading and planning resources with them through email after the session and be available to answer questions in the future. I was very thankful for a teacher who raised their hand at the end of the session and commented that IBL and TBL would be worth the teacher’s effort to try, because the alternative was not working for him or his students. After the session I sifted through our AIBL dropbox for helpful resources and forwarded them to the participants. My main take-away from this experience was the extreme importance of BUY-IN. My goals of the session were to expose the teachers to an alternative to traditional chalk and talk, plant some seeds, wet their appetites, and provide resources. I think that I accomplished these goals.


One thought on “Liza: Coping with the “it won’t work with my students” argument

  1. Liza,
    I love hearing about these stories. The last year I have worked hard to have responses to combat these ideas and how to get good buy-in from the teacher side of things. I feel like this kind of thing is harder because you might only have a few minutes to work on the buy-in. Keep up the good work Liza.


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