In this section, Dr. Srivastava explains how the frequent breaks built into the structure of the course enable students to get help with concepts that they find confusing.
Having breaks—a number of very short, 10- or 15-minute breaks—is really critical. In teaching the aerodynamics class, I frequently interact with the students to make sure they’re following and that they understand the concepts. For instance, one of the principles that I build off during the lecture is conservation of momentum. Once, during the break after the lecture, a student shared with me that he didn’t know what conservation of momentum was. So I took a few minutes at the whiteboard with him to back up and talk about conservation of momentum. It turned out that he was missing some of the key basics on vectors, like what they are and how they work. So we took some time going back to basics, talking about mass and velocity and the classic example of what happens when there are two balls rolling and one hits the other. Having these breaks and allowing for that deep dive is really helpful so that we can close the gap and not stall the whole classroom to cover those types of materials.
Those breaks enable student learning in another way as well. When students come to the front of the classroom to talk to us during breaks, either to share an experience that they’ve had or to ask for clarification, there are sometimes too many students for us to answer all at once. For example, if seven students come to the front of the classroom, and I’m talking to one or two of them about a question, the other students that came down end up talking to each other and helping each other out in understanding the concept, which I think is very valuable. It’s very important to allow students to help each other in the learning process.