I tried hard, in the latter part of my career, reach every student in every class period that I taught. That this may be an unreachable goal is of little interest to me. I think that I must do this.
It seems common to teach to some perceived ideal level, especially in courses that depend fundamentally on traditional lecture. Some teachers focus on the best students, hoping the "average" students will do ok and largely ignoring the less-than-average. Some teach to "the middle" - at least, as they perceive it. Few seem to aim for the bottom, leaving the best students to learn on their own.
I want to give everyone something to advance their learning in each class period. Not everyone in a course will want or need the same things. I want to give them each the things that they will judge valuable. I have a few ideas, most involving active learning techniques and student teams, following a structure into which each student can fit their own goals, and find satisfaction achieving those goals. Traditional A-F grading is a poor vehicle for this.
I don't think spending a lot of effort on reaching the unreachable is productive. Some students will be in your class for the wrong reasons and may be uninterested in any reasonable of success. To make this achievable, make the following assumptions:
- The student population is diverse in background, preparedness, skill, and drive.
- The students have different personal goals.
- All students want to learn
- All students can be convinced to put some effort into the process.
- It is the student who will judge whether he/she learned something of value.
- The "something" learned can be different for each student.
The somewhat transcendental question is: How can I convince others to reach for this goal? How can we be convinced to try to set the conditions so that they can all be reached - continuously in every class period?