Experiment for this semester: encouraging good student behavior

Today is the first day of class, and it is our first day ever in our new building!

I am in the middle of Barbara Oakley’s A Mind for Numbers, which is a book on how to learn effectively (I really like it so far). One of the key ideas is that you should study regularly, rather than binge. It got me thinking about the way I use one of my assignments.

For many of my classes, I have them do problems on MyOpenMath. This is a cheap way (for me) to get them more practice, as it autogrades their answers. They are allowed to attempt each problem as many times as they like without penalty. I have gone through three iterations of how I do this.

  1. The first time I did this, I had a single due date at the end of the semester. That is, they had roughly 250 problems to do, and they had to do it by the last day of class. As you can imagine, most everyone procrastinated some, and some people procrastinated a lot. But I liked that they had flexibility and they were never in a position where it was impossible to get back the points.
  2. As I was planning my classes this semester, I decided to break up this assignment. My school divides up the semester into quarters (called “Mods”), and so I was planning on having two chapters due by the end of the first Mod, another two by the end of the second, and so on. If students missed a deadline, they could spend a token to get the work done by the end of the next Mod. I liked this. I further loosened this in a later draft by just requiring that they have 25% percent of all of the problems done by the end of the first Mod, 50% by the end of the second, and so on. I liked that this gave the students more flexibility, and they can start by getting the low-hanging fruit from all of the chapters (they will have seen all of the chapters by the end of the first Mod, the way I have things set up).
  3. The issue with this improvement is that I think that students will still be cramming, but with four smaller cram sessions rather than one big one. In order to encourage students to work continually on the material, I am now making 4 questions due every day—Monday through Friday, even when we don’t have class&mdash. Students can work ahead if they like (which is a win for me) so that they don’t have to think about this every day.

    One issue I had with this is determining what to do if a student misses an assignment. I want them to be able to make it up. My solution: at the end of each Mod, if you are completely caught up, you can spend one token to make up all of the assignments you missed during the Mod. So students could just cram and do it once per Mod, but it will cost them a token (and I am no worse than I would have been in the second iteration of this assignment).

I am hoping that it gets students thinking about the material regularly and is not overwhelming.

2 Responses to “Experiment for this semester: encouraging good student behavior”

  1. Automating Reports | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] experiment I am doing this semester is having assignments that are due five days per week, even though we only we only have class on two days per week. Here is a quick summary for those who […]

  2. Linux Workspaces | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] also have tasks that I do daily. For instance, I have online assignments that I grade at every day, and I leave that website and the gradebook open on my desktop. Similarly, I am on Canvas, my LMS, […]

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