Skip to content

Successes and struggles in lecture

March 28, 2013

This is a bit of a brain dump of things that are working well and things that I’m struggling with in my first experience teaching a large lecture class.

Following the first exam I gave an anonymous online survey:

  • 76% of respondents feel they are given enough opportunities to ask questions
  •  66% of students reported having had a face to face interaction with either myself or one of the LAs

Students also shared some useful feedback about the flipped classroom/peer instruction model I’ve been using. I’ve talked about their feedback in class and have made some modifications – a small increase in “mini lectures” during class so it’s not ALL clicker questions and splitting the online learning modules up to differentiate between basic ideas and more advanced examples/applications.

I’ve been very transparent about why I make certain instructional choices, when and why I am or am not making modifications based on student feedback and when I think I’m to blame for something not being successful. I’ve gotten a fair amount of student feedback saying they appreciate my flexibility and they seem to appreciate my goals for our class. I think this has been especially helpful for students who are struggling in class. I acknowledged that grades on the fist exam were lower than I had hoped but explained that I wasn’t going to curve the grades because I believe the students are capable of succeeding on an exam of that difficulty. Instead I proposed an alternative solution…

I told students the three most commonly misplaced questions on exam 1 and told them that there would be an equation on exam 2 that was similar to one of these questions. I made the deal that if a student got the question correct on exam 2 then I would also give them credit for the analogous question on exam 1. This is a little bit in the spirit of standards based grading although not as fully articulated. The success rate for the question (a multi-loop circuit problem) increased from 50% on the first exam to 75% on the 2nd exam (admittedly I would have liked it to be closer to 85%).

I managed to ask a free response, take-home question on the first exam. Between myself, two TAs, and two LAs we managed to grade all 280 responses over a weekend. Several students found the problem interesting and it gave them an opportunity to model something semi-realistic using their ideas from class. On the downside, to make grading more manageable I told the TAs and LAs not to worry about writing feedback on the papers. This means that students got the experience and saw their grade but didn’t get any specific feedback about their solution unless they came to office hours. I also could have done a better job writing the grading rubric. My rubric focused on the main ideas involved in a “canonical solution” and wasn’t super helpful for grading students who used different ideas in their solutions.

Several students say “hi” to me when they see me outside of class. I take this as one indicator that they find me approachable and feel that I have an interest in their overall success as students.

I spend too much time making diagrams for my lecture slides or for videos I’m recording. I need to come up with a better way to use more hand-drawn figures so that this doesn’t take so long.

I’m still working on my timing for clicker questions. It’s hard for me to get out of my Hands-on-Science mode where I have time to sit back and listen to a student’s idea unfold and evolve. I check in with students during the discussion part of our clicker questions but there are times that I’ll sit and listen to a student for 5 minutes and realize that the rest of the class is now off topic in their discussions. Using my cell phone as a timer helps but it’s still something I need to consciously think about. I recently read a pair of papers by Turpen and Finkelstein which are helping me to think about what skills I want to emphasize in my use of clicker questions.

Assessment has been a significant struggle this semester. I want to unpack this in a separate post but I’ve been struggling a lot with time constraints and the use of multiple choice questions in exams.

I still feel like I am under utilizing my TAs and LAs and that I am not providing them with enough guidance. This is something I struggle with in Hands-on-Science as well. Hopefully this summer I’ll have a chance to take a look at the PTEC resources for LA training and think about whether those might help.

Following Warren’s suggestion, I’ve been writing (and displaying) a set of learning goals for every class. Unfortunately I usually don’t have time to come back to these at the end of class. I also sometimes do a poor job of making the learning goals operational (i.e. too many of them say “Understand …”). Lately I’ve started ending each lecture with a “You should be able to…” slide containing much more actionable goals. I need to make time to come back to this expanding list every week or so and see what progress students are making.


From → Teaching

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: