Semester Reflection

I am giving this semester mixed reviews. Here are the good things that happened:

  1. I really enjoyed working with my future elementary education teachers.
  2. Our department hired two great mathematicians: Sunil Chetty and Anne Sinko.
  3. I had a positive third year review (halfway to tenure!).
  4. I started introducing computer programming into my courses.
  5. I started introducing ideas from Assessment FOR Learning into my courses.
  6. I became convinced that screencasts will be a great teaching tool.
  7. I continued experimenting with clickers.
  8. I started a Project Euler Club.
  9. I used a Scholarship and Teaching Fellowship to make progress on the textbook I am writing.

Here are the bad things;

  1. The process of hiring two new professors took a whole lot of time.
  2. My students barely did anything with the computer programming projects.
  3. In spite of the Assessment FOR Learning ideas, large portions of my class had trouble even understanding what it means to explain why something works (rather than just “how to perform an algorithm. That, they get.).
  4. Although I made progress on my textbook, it was minimal. There was still somehow too much to do.

Next year: I am hoping to up the ante on Assessment FOR Learning in my two real analysis classes in the fall. I am also going to greatly increase my use of screencasts and clickers. In the spring, I will teach the course for elementary education majors again, giving me a chance to improve on the number of students who understand the difference between “how” and “why.” I am also teaching a complex analysis cours—possibly doing a full-on IBL course.

7 Responses to “Semester Reflection”

  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist Says:

    Looks like two great lists, Bret. I think the first list is a sign of some great energy you’ve put into your teaching this year. Of course, I think the second list is, too! The ‘why’ vs ‘how’ work you’re doing really has me intrigued and I think your description of the difficulties of doing it with students is a sign of some hard work we all have to do.

    And, hey, congrats on the 3rd year review! Always nice to know you’re on the right track, right?

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for the comment. Do you have any suggestion on “why vs. how?” Do you run into that in physics? Bret

      • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist Says:

        The screencasting that I had my students do this semester really got at the why vs how issues for me. It’s one thing to have a student dutifully derive something and quite another to have them explain the motivation for every step. That’s a little different from your “but why does it work” but to me they’re related.

      • bretbenesh Says:

        Hi Andy,

        I aspire to move toward your “voice” grading policy, and I hope that this will help answer my question. I just need to figure out how to do it when I have 20 students. Actually, this is more likely: I will wait for you to figure out how to do it, and then I will just copy you. đŸ™‚ Bret

  2. sunilchetty Says:

    Congrats on the 3rd year review Bret! well-deserved I am sure. And thank you for the welcoming words, I am excited to join you all this fall… many good conversations will be had!

  3. IBL « Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] Solvable by Radicals Just another weblog « Semester Reflection […]

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