Creating a “time for telling”

by Stephanie Chasteen on July 20, 2012

I’ve written a few times about creating a “time for telling” — preparing students for lecture by having them invent a solution before they are given the expert solution.  This is related to students’ inability to transfer learning to new situations — if they just get the expert solution, without a chance to make meaning of it on their own, then their understanding of the structure of the solution is typically limited.  Here is a post about writing assessments that prepare students for future learning, and an example of a preparation for future learning activity.

I’ve now published the latest (and last) episode of my Learning about Teaching Physics audio podcast, all about Dan Schwartz’s work and preparation for future learning:

Preparing Students to Learn from Lecture: Creating a “Time for Telling”.  If interactive classrooms are the best way for students to learn, then is it bad to tell things to students? Not necessarily. In this podcast, we hear from researchers and instructors how we might prepare students to learn effectively from lecture.

While the theme is physics education research, these topics are really relevant for all STEM classrooms.  Also note the survey at the top of the page – I’m very interested in your feedback on this pilot project.  Please spread the word!  Online at the Physics Education Research User’s Guide, and you can subscribe through iTunes too.

Nuggets from the education research that you can use in class tomorrow
We’re getting the physics education research out of those stuffy journals and into your hands (or, rather, ears) with this little audio podcast. Co-hosted by veteran high school physics teacher Michael Fuchs and physicist and education researcher Stephanie Chasteen, each episode investigates a piece of the research literature and how it can relate to your classroom.  Relevant for K12 and college instruction.

This podcast is supported by a grant from the American Association of Physics Teachers (Physics Education Research Topical Group) and supported by the University of Colorado’s Science Education Initiative, the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Colorado and sciencegeekgirl enterprises.


Brian Lamore July 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Just listened to your latest podcast — fantastic! I’ve listened to your other 3 many time already, and I will listen to this one again in a minute.

First, you have a great radio voice. Maybe that’s “podcast voice” these days…

I endeavor to learn from you and other educators via podcasts, Twitter, blogs, PERG, etc., and I really, really (try to) employ what I hear are the best practices: flipped classroom (screencasts), exporlative/investigative experiments, whiteboarding, open-ended questions. (I teach 9th and 11/12th grades.)

Most of my students are very resistant to what I am doing (read: trying to do) — i.e., what I hear/read I should be doing in the physics classroom. I heard the one student in your podcast talk about how she felt the (can I say) “non-lecture” techniques you are using helped her. Do you have any students who are of the opposite opinion?

My take is this: most of my students want to be lectured to — told what they need to know. Perhaps this is the way it’s been for them since middle school? I will this year, however, spend more time emphasizing my expectations on Day 1, as your guest suggested at the end of the podcast.

Please keep it up!

Stephanie Chasteen July 24, 2012 at 4:06 am

Thank you Brian, I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the podcasts! This is wonderful feedback. It’s really nice to hear that my work has been useful to someone. You sound like the kind of educator I’m trying to reach — those using various media to seek out information useful for their teaching practices. It sounds like you spend a lot of time working to improve your teaching — how do you find the time?

I’m sorry to hear that students are resistant. My biggest experiences with lack of student buy-in is when they aren’t adequately “sold” on the idea. My experience is mostly with selling students on the idea of active learning using clickers. Many instructors have told me that when they didn’t adequately explain to students at the beginning of the class — and repeat the explanation several times over the beginning of the semester — then students didn’t buy in and didn’t engage. You can go to and look for the video “telling your students why”, which is a super short video with an example of such a “sales pitch” in a college class. As that instructor says, it’s more effort for students to do these kinds of interactive things in class, so you better make it clear that it’s worth their while — either in terms of intrinsic joy of learning, or extrinsic “stick” of grades…. Humans are masters at minimizing effort.

Best of luck!

Brian Lamore July 24, 2012 at 4:33 am

Thanks for the link; I’ll check it out.

Time? Well,… I have no life. (Mmm… yeah, that’s probably it.)

I don’t have a clicker system, although I hear you can get them cheap used now. I do use PollEverywhere, however. Works pretty well.

Neil Haave July 26, 2012 at 4:56 am

I tried a. Edison of the flipped classroom last year (team-based learning) and had a similar experience to Brian – students want/like to be lectured to even when I showed them that there was greater benefit (higher grades) for them when I used TBL. It seemed to me that “most” students we somewhat accepting of my attempts but there was certainly a vocal minority who were very resistant (heinous was I’d a couple of times on the student evaluations). I am not giving up on it simply because I enjoyed teaching more and on balance most students liked the flipped classroom. But, I do think that students need instructors to still “tell” the narrative to help them create the scaffold of their new knowledge. I went back to the original 1998 article “A Time For Telling” and was struck by their argument that contrasting cases are needed to prepare students to listen to the instructional narrative. Not sure how I will do that in a Molecular Cell Biology course.

Glad I stumbled upon your website while researching flipping and telling. I will return.

Stephanie Chasteen July 27, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Hi Neil,
Glad you found the site as well! I have been coming to the conclusion, and do agree, that the narrative is also needed as well as the individual struggle for meaning. This is why the “time for telling” idea is so powerful to me. It helps confirm something that I have always suspected, that there is a very important role for the instructor’s expert wrap-up and explanation, as well as for student individual grappling.

The contrasting cases idea is, to me, simply saying that you need to clue students in to the structure of the narrative that you’re giving. Give students a chance to find that structure. It may be difficult to come up with the contrasts when you are so used to seeing, and showing, the exemplars! I don’t have examples from molecular biology to share with you, however.


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