The course is offered as a summer course and attracts students with radically different skills and motivation
Many summer classes tend to attract students with extremes of motivation. Some students are highly motivated and take summer classes as a fast track to their degrees. Other students take a summer course because they failed or dropped it in a previous semester. The former group might sail through easily, while the latter group might resent having to take the course, or have anxiety about it. In addition, the course might also have some pre-college students who, while capable, might not be used to the work ethic expected in college. All courses have students with varying degrees of motivation, but concentration at the extremes is what makes this kind of class difficult to teach. Of course, this difficulty is compounded by the challenge of condensing a whole semester’s worth of material into six weeks. On the plus side, summer classes are generally small.
Because summer courses are typically small, you can offer individualized help to students who need it, if appropriate.
In a mastery-based course, students are not advanced to subsequent learning objectives until they have demonstrated mastery of the current one. Therefore, students progress at an individualized pace through course materials. Advanced or motivated students may demonstrate proficiency much more rapidly, and thus complete the course objectives sooner than less advanced or less motivated students.
If you are teaching a course for which an Open Learning Initiative (OLI) version of the course exists, consider making that available to students. The very motivated can use the self-paced, online version of the course without much support form you. This allows you to devote more time to other students.
Usually, the best strategy is to teach to the median, taking care to offer more scaffolding for students who struggle and extra challenge opportunities for those who excel. But if your class has almost no one in the middle and most people split at the two extremes, this strategy might not work. You might have to revise your learning objectives and face the dilemma regarding the group on which to focus. In making this decision, you must then figure out what to do with the other half of the class (i.e., provide additional support or offer additional challenge).
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