Fall 2019 was an interesting semester for me. I taught two classes, and one was the best course I have ever taught, and the other was my worst.

My best class ever was my capstone class. I basically gave the students an open research question, and they went to town. I got to see them successfully get through all parts of the mathematical process, and it was a joy to see them succeed. I am thrilled I get to teach this course again this semester since it went so well.

My worst class ever was my statistics class. It was bad for a whole bunch of reasons, including but not limited to: I lectured way too much, the students had really bad attendance, some of the main technology we used just wouldn’t work (I had to switch at midsemester), the students did not submit assignments, I didn’t provide enough support on how to study, etc. There were some awesome students in the class whom I loved working with, and I liked working with *all* of the students. The class just didn’t, well, click for some reason. This wasn’t a terrible experience—I still liked teaching the course—but it just fell flat. I am thrilled I get to teach this course again this semester since it went so poorly.

Here is my takeaway: I am at my best when give the students more leash to explore. I have a tendency to over-construct my class, which restricts what students can do. I am going to work on letting students explore more.

Here are some specific examples: last semester, I had the students use real-world data. They collected data for one project, and I handed them the data for the other three. I gave them the types of data sets they had available, they set up a hypothesis test about the data, and then I handed them the data to simulate them collecting it. This isn’t a horrible idea, but the students didn’t get too excited about my data sets (the life span of ball bearings is less exciting to college students than one might think).

Instead, I am going to have the students collect the data for all of the projects. The project where they collected the data was easily the best one last semester, so I am hoping all of the projects will be improved. I am removing the constraint of “Bret has to give you the data, and the data must be excellent.” I really think that was a barrier to learning.

We will see how it goes this semester!