New IBL-Peer Instruction Hybrid Model

Here is my plan for my abstract algebra class in the spring semetser. This is probably a little early to post this, but it ties in with Stan’s post on coverage in IBL classes.

My plan for the spring is to run an IBL course. I wrote my own notes this summer (although they are based heavily off of Margaret Morrow’s notes). One problem that I have with most of the IBL notes for abstract algebra is that they do not do much with ring field and field theory. In creating my notes, I included just about everything that I would want to include in a first abstract algebra course (including a section on group actions). This, of course, is too much content to cover in a semester in an IBL class (I suspect, anyway).

Here are the details: I figure that I can expect the students to discuss 5 problems per class, I can assign 1 other problem as a special type of homework, so I have accounted for 6 problems per day. Since there are about 30 days of class, this means that I can expect them to do 180 problems on their own. But I created a set of notes with 234 problems, and I expect to add more throughout the semester. This is too many problems.

But my solution is similar to Stan’s: I have roughly 50 extra problems for 30 classes. I can simply do three of the problems for students via screencast for them each class period (then I get some extra days for exams, review, and snow days). This has a couple of advantages. First, it allows me to cover all of the material I want to cover over the course of the semester. Second, it gives students model proofs to help them learn how to write proofs.

A second feature that this course will have is a better integration of IBL and Peer Instruction. I am a fan of both pedagogies because of the learning gains reported in the research. I am a fan of IBL because of the level of independence it promotes; Peer Instruction does not do this (at least, the way I do it). I am a fan of Peer Instruction because of the way it stamps out misconceptions and helps students make sense of mathematics; IBL does not do this (at least, not the way I do it). So I am continually looking for ways to combine these pedagogies.

Peer Instruction (for me) works best when the students have already been exposed to the content. I have previously tried to merge the two pedagogies by splitting the semester into halves. This has its advantages, although I am trying something new out next semester: I am going to have IBL classes on Mondays and Fridays (30 classes), and I will have Peer Instruction classes on Wednesdays based on the material that was covered on the previous Monday and Friday.

The basic idea is this: students are introduced to an idea the first time in preparing for an IBL class. They see the material a second time in class. They see the material a third time on the next Wednesday’s Peer Instruction class. They see the material a fourth time on homework/tests/whatever I end up planning.

I am really looking forward to this. Please let me know of any potential problems or improvements that you can think of.


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8 Responses to “New IBL-Peer Instruction Hybrid Model”

  1. Joss Ives Says:

    Hey Bret. Have you ever tried to split a course up by days of the week like that? I have tried to do something similar, using a pre-existing supplemental set of pedagogical materials (University of Washington Tutorials in Physics) on the same day each week, but found that I often fell out of sync with getting to the right point during the class before the one in which we did the Tutorials.

    My other question has to do with the problems in your notes that you were discussing. Do the students need to see the solutions/proofs for each problem? It sounds like they will have a lot of example ones to work from and I’m curious if it is reasonable to provide them with a resource with signposts that they are following the correct path as opposed to a full solution?

    • Bret Benesh Says:

      Hi Joss,

      I have never tried this split before, but iam not too worried about making it sync up: I am going to design the Wednesday activities to match the previous Griday’s and Monday’s classes. I can see how it would be tough to make two existing plans sync, though.

      I like your idea of providing outlines rather than full proofs. I think I might start with full proofs, but gradually transition to more outlines and signposts.

      Thanks, Joss! Bret

  2. Mitch Keller Says:

    This sounds like a really intriguing approach. Hopefully we’ll get a follow-up post or posts when you’re in progress and then after the term. I’ve been wanting to try bringing in a more IBL approach when I get some upper division courses, but I also really value PI for the reasons you described and don’t want to abandon it. I’m hoping you have lots of success so that I can steal tons of ideas from you for my future classes πŸ™‚

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Hi Mitch,

      I will do my best to blog about it next semester. I also love to steal, so take whatever you can, re-mix it, and then I can steal back the improvements you have made.

  3. suevanhattum Says:

    Sounds like a class I’d like to take. (Maybe I know most of this, maybe I don’t. I’ve grabbed Margaret Morrow’s notes, and look forward to working through them, maybe over the winter holidays.)

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Let me know about Morrow’s notes. They looked really good to me; they were only lacking in a couple of key areas (rings, fields, and permutations groups).

      And you are always welcome to sit in on my classes πŸ™‚

      On Sat, Sep 21, 2013 at 11:00 AM, Solvable by Radicals

  4. Again, a new IBL-Peer Instruction Hybrid Model | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] is the same model I discussed last summer for my abstract algebra class. That abstract algebra class was closed due […]

  5. Linear Algebra Class Structure | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] good news is that I can use the same basic course structure for linear algebra that I was planning to use for abstract algebra. The model is […]

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