Application: Challenging Concepts

Every subject area has concepts that are particularly difficult to grasp or skills that are particularly difficult to master. Everyone who has taught for any length of time learns to identify these difficult concepts and skills, perhaps by noticing exam questions that students typically get wrong, or by observing students in a lab or workplace setting struggling to perform a task. When you are sure the exam questions, assignment instructions, or task directions are not themselves the problem, you can be fairly sure you’ve identified a challenging area of the subject.

For this week’s Application, investigate these challenging areas of your own subject by completing the following steps:

  • Choose the subject matter you want to investigate. This could be a subject you teach now, one you are interested in teaching, or a foundational subject such as written communication or mathematics.
  • Conduct a library search for articles on teaching in this field. Almost every field has body of literature about teaching in that field; in some cases, there is an entire journal on the topic. To help you get started, visit the POD Network’s list of general and discipline-specific journals on college teaching, provided in Optional Resources. Try to identify three to four articles that present research on the challenges that students face in learning that subject.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation that you could share with colleagues on how to anticipate and identify these learning challenges. Prepare 3–4 slides that summarize your findings.

(Assignment length: 3–4 PowerPoint slides)

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