6/6/11 Final exams given and graded, and final grades posted. Whew! Finished at last. At the end of a semester I pass out my own teacher evaluation forms in my courses. I don't leave the room, and a colleague doesn't collect them and physically keep them away from me. But I do promise my students that I won't look at them until after I have posted final grades, and I keep that promise. It's possible the results may be more positive because some students think they can butter me up to improve their grades, and the results may be more honest because students know it's not official so they can't get me into trouble. I do it because I want to see how students see the course and my teaching. It's a good reality check for me, and it helps me to evaluate new things that I try. It's also a way for me to show my respect for my students. This semester taught discrete math, calculus 2, and trig. I was especially interested in the evaluations from my discrete math course. In there I redid my lectures, checked class understanding more often ("show hands -- how many people understand X") and responded to what I saw, and I produced a long, optional, review set with answers before each of the six exams. As to the review idea, I also emphasized online review sets much more heavily this time in my calculus 2 course. The results: Students in all three courses were very positive with how the courses went. The review sets were hugely popular in the discrete math and the calculus 2. But some students would like me to manage homework discussions better. Some discrete math students would like me to collect homework and count it, which I don't do in that course. Some calculus 2 students are not happy that Webwork does not give explanations of solutions. A few comments from the evaluations follow just to give you some of the flavor: "Study guides (review sets) are really, really, really and really helpful." (Discrete Math) "The environment in the class made it easy to feel comfortable, ask questions, and discuss the material." (Discrete Math) "Love cumulative (exams), as much as I hate it, I love it." (Calculus 2) "I didn't like webwork because if I got a problem wrong I wouldn't know why." (Calculus 2) "The work material was very confusing/intense. Having more work with that would help with understanding." (Calculus 2) "You write on the board too fast. I can't write fast enough to keep up." (Trig) "You never got frustrated when we asked the same question over and over; you didn't care." (Trig. The same student.) 5/16/11 Today begins the last week of classes for the semester. Lately I have been thinking a lot about reviews and their effects. Since I use the online homework system Webwork to give students homework, it is easy to set up review assignments before exams. All I have to do is pick problems out of past assignments to form the review and set an open window that ends when the exam begins. My review sets are optional. In calculus courses in which I have done this I have noticed that student scores on the exams correlate poorly with homework scores but seem to correlate much better with the review sets. The more students seemed to work on the sets the better they seemed to do on the exams. In this semester's calculus course most students did poorly on the first (of six) exams. In class I told them about the correlation I noticed and suggested that students might spend more time on the review sets. Now at the end of the semester it seems that a number of students have done just that, and their results have improved. I've done something similar in my Discrete Math course. In that course the content and the homework does not lend itself well to online homework. So instead I have made up a selection of review problems before each exam and posted a pdf version of this on the course web site followed shortly by an answer sheet. We are up to review (and exam) number six now. The review sets have been very popular with the students. - Comment from Tom Carey: Bob, there seems to be considerable interest in finding ways to improve the way students prepare for exams. Your idea of explaining the link between productive review and eventual success is a good addition to the repertoire. I am thinking that we should start to collect examples of ways faculty have influenced student behavior like this, in both studying for exams and in the tactics they use in homework (Matt Robertson at West LA College did some good work on this with his students last year). Where could we put this in the collection so that it would be visible? 4/8/11 Hungwen posted some Excel worksheets in statistics by Laney Math person Bill Lepowski. Hungwen improved it by adding a capability of presetting the means, standard deviations, and correlation of a sample set of data pairs from a bivariate normal distribution. Hungwen sent me his notes on how this is done, and I have been working through it. 3/24/11 It's been a long time since I blogged. (An acquired habit, I guess.) Since the last time my Math Department has decided to go ahead with a reorganization of our elementary algebra and intermediate algebra by, for example, doing the algebra of lines only in the elementary algebra and the algebra of rational expressions only in intermediate algebra. We had quite a bit of good discussion leading up to the decision. For myself I'm skeptical the outcomes will be very different student learning and teaching were not large parts of the discussion but now we will see. There is an a group of active faculty working on statistics in my department. I am asking Tue for a pdf version of his FAQ sheet for StatPath so I can send it on to the members of this group. I also passed on to this group a heads up to the Carnegie Foundation webinaire on April first on developmental math students and StatWays and QuantWays -- similar, I think, to the StatPath idea. Karon is a director of it. One of my CSM colleagues has already signed up for the webinaire. By now I have written or planned several short pieces on using Webwork. A couple of these have been posted as Curriki resources. I will continue to produce these pieces. I've had an exchange of messages with Tom about the proposed online meeting with several teachers at member colleges to showcase what we are doing and find out what outside teachers want and would find attractive. I brought up the idea of Legitimate Peripheral Participation. (This idea says that basically people hang out on the edge of something until they get interested enough to get more involved. This means there must be stuff and activities on the edge for them until they are ready to make the plunge.) Tom mentioned the book (by Brown and Duguid), "The Secret Life of Information." It has a lot of ideas about how people share information and learn in work settings. I read this some years ago, but now I am rereading it. 1/20/11 I have talked to a several of our full-time Math professors about joining us. One, who has done a lot of work in the elementary statistic over many years, says he will join at some point. He has been following professional conversations about education in statistics for quite a while. His office mate may also want to join at some point. So the pied piper (I mean the faculty colleague) is having some success, at least apparently. Good to hear that you are receiving a good response, Bob...I assume you were thinking of the children led by the Pied Piper, not the rodents? :) Tom 1/17/11 I have been playing around with Curriki. Something I don't understand: How do you copy a resource from, say, the My Curriki for me to some other part of our group materials? When I try it a dialog comes up saying I drag it over. But there is nowhere to drag it. ...Bob, that dialog box should have a My Groups entry at the bottom, with a drop-down arrow to expand it out into collections, folders, etc.Once you get it open to the place where you want the new resource to do, you can drag and drop it.The other way to create a resource is to use the Build Up operator in the top right side of the display box for the place you want the resource to reside..Tom (I know you mention below that you figured this out yourself, but I thought I should add this note in case others encounter a similar problem :) How are we going to organize this thing? On the wiki we used for the South Bay group, organization got to be a problem over time. What are the organizational tools (and how do we use them) on Curriki so that we do better? (This is an extension of the question in the previous paragraph.) I think the organization around standard courses and then different levels of concern with a course - activity, topic, assessment, etc. - should help. I will also put on the top of the Curriculum page hot links to the ongoing group themes that we agreed to in the team meeting...Tom In my Math Department at the College of San Mateo there is a group of three professors who have had a collaboration going in the elementary statistics course for several years. I asked one of them to join us and tell us about what they are doing. He is thinking about it, but I think he will. LATER… I solved my problem in copying resources from one place to another. I also understand the organizational tools and possibilities better now. As I tell my students: confusion is a GOOD thing; it tells you what you still need to figure out.