Last week, I talked about how determine my students’ grades up to a C (by the way—the students are doing much better on the quizzes than I expected. Most students should finish up on Monday, the last day of grading. I expected many, many more students to be struggling to meet the requirements). This week, I will discuss how they earn a B or an A.
There are two components in determining grades above a C: presentations and a take-home final exam.
The exam was pretty standard. The one comment here is that I could make it fairly difficult, since it is really aimed at differentiating the C-students from the B-students from the A-students.
For the presentations, I essentially made a list of 100-200 homework problems for the semester, and doled them out to the students. I assigned 15 problems to be presented per class period for the second half of the semester, and I told the students to spend at least 10 minutes trying each problem before they are due. The purpose of this was so that the non-presenting students would get more out of the class (spoiler: I don’t think that students actually looked at the problems they were not planning on presenting).
The night before class, students request (via Moodle, our classroom management system) to present as many or as few of the assigned problems as they like. The next morning, I assemble an “itinerary” of presentations. The presenting student comes to class with the substance of the presentation written out on notebook paper, and then presents the problem with a document camera (I receive no money for linking to this camera. It is simply inexpensive and I have been happy with it).
Here is how the presentation grades were determined (I heavily borrowed from Ted Mahavier for this, who has a lot of experience doing this):
- D – You attended every class, paid attention, and tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to present at least a few times.
- C – You fulfilled the requirements for a D, and you had a few successful presentations.
- B – You fulfilled the requirements for a C, and you had many successful presentations.
- A – You fulfilled the requirements for a B, and you had many successful presentations of difficult problems.
My goal for the presentations was to create a Modified Moore Method-type atmosphere in the course. The problem is that the audience for each presentation zoned out after 2-3 weeks. Thus, I think that the presentations were probably very helpful to the students, but not very helpful to the students in the audience. I did a pre-test and a post-test using the Calculus Concept Inventory, so we will see if the data confirm my skepticism about this teaching method.
I like the overall structure of the course (Peer Instruction for the first half to give a good conceptual foundation, and then some sort of IBL thing in the second half for reinforcement and details), but I will likely not be using this presentation style again. The best format I have so far is to return to my <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_learning"Cooperative Learning roots and do something like this:
- Do maybe 4-7 problems per day as homework.
- Have the students work in teams on one assigned problem at the beginning of class so that everyone really understands it (after getting a head-start on it from the homework).
- Randomly call on a team member to present the problem.
- That random team member’s presentation grade is the grade for everyone in the team.
This will help the students teach each other. I would love to hear feedback and other suggestions (and I apologize for typing and weird formatting; my son just woke up, and I probably won’t have time to proofread until Monday. Since I want this off of my to-do list, I decided to publish without proofreading).
(Image “A Plus” by flickr user s_falkow)