In my course for elementary education students, I once again gave oral exams—this time for the final exam. Here are two take-aways from the oral exams.
First, I need to do some peer instruction next time. In particular, students had a difficult time understanding the difference between the “whole” of a fraction and the “denominator” of a fraction (Consider “ of a mouse” and “ of an elephant.” Both have a denominator of “2,” but the whole of the first is “mouse” and the whole of the second is “elephant.” This leads to different meanings. I think that three clicker questions would eliminate this.
Second, I was shocked at how ineffective my lectures were. The oral exam questions (which they also had to create screencasts for) were ones that were previous done in class (for example: why does inverting and multiplying give the correct answer to a division problem?). The process was this: students would figure out why the algorithm works, and then present at the end of a class period. I begin the next class period by giving the same argument. Other class periods begin with students presenting on similar questions, the class evaluating the presentations, and—if needed—me presenting the correct explanation.
Furthermore, I gave the answers to each of the oral exam questions on the last day of class. Test test So students saw the answer to each oral exam question at least three times, and probably more (especially since I had students view other students’ video solutions).
I was concerned that students would simply memorize these explanations. This simply did not happen. Either students understood the algorithm (I can tell from the oral exams—these students could answer any question that I had on the algorithm) or students did not understand any portion of the algorithm.
Most puzzling is that, in my student evaluations, some of my students complained that they were never shown how to do the algorithms correctly. This is in spite of seeing a completely correct solution to every problem between 3 and 10 times. I can only explain this in two ways:
- Somehow students did not understand that the solutions they saw were solutions to the problems from the oral exams and screencasts. This would mean that I did not clearly communicate the intent of presenting the solutions.
- Lecture was monumentally ineffective in helping them learn—so much so that students did not even remember that they occurred.
Do you have any other ideas?