Another in my series of cockamamie posts leading up to my spring semester. This one is another about Modern Physics (see my last one that talked about building and using a map for that course). I’m still on my kick about student agency, or ownership of the material. I want them to know what they’re studying, want to study it, and here I want to get my initial thoughts down on how they might aid in developing the assessment of their knowledge.
I teach using Standards-Based Grading (also known as Standards-Based Assessment and Retention, aka Learning-Objective-Based Learning, aka Criterion-Referenced Grading). The students demonstrate understanding on standards like “I can derive length contraction” or “I can discuss the foundations of, usefulness of, and ramifications of Planck’s Blackbody formula.” As is typical for me, I find I put time on syllabi issues that have made me crabby in the past. For this post, it’s that I set standards and students refuse to even consider issues that seem to go beyond them. In one sense, that’s how I’ve planned it. I’ve focussed the content for them, and I want them to put their energy on it. However, sometimes they don’t realize how far afield I might take them in an oral exam. Take the length contraction one above. I really want them to have a good understanding of Einstein’s postulates (likely a different standard), light clocks, synchronization, time dilation, and all sorts of other things when I use the verb “derive.” But the students run across a derivation in my screencasts or in the text or whatever and think that’s all there is. It takes them a few reassessments to get the gist of what I’m looking for. So, I have a new cockamamie idea.
What if we use the map and determine what to study in the next cycle (day, week, unit, something). That will be simple descriptors like “relative length” or “Blackbody.” They’ll have text(s) to read and some screencasts of mine to study, and we’ll spend class time working interesting aspects of the issues. Then, at the end, we all determine what the standard is for that day.
Upsides (please help me here):
- The topic will be broad, and they’ll have to study everything.
- They maintain ownership of their learning.
- I don’t have to make a list before the semester starts.
- They can argue whether a standard should be a calculation type or a derive, explain type. In my classes in the past I’ve used both quite liberally.
- My two-week rule (get at least a crappy assessment in within 2 weeks of us spending time in class) would still work.
Downsides (please help me here):
- The topic will be broad, and they won’t want to study everything.
- They’ll just want to know what’s important.
- I look lazy.
- Class time might not be spent in the most productive way (I’m not talking about the 5 minutes at the end to make the decision. I’m talking about how it might turn out to be a calculation type standard and we spent the whole day on derivations or something).
- The 2 week rule sucks (wait, that’s a different post — stay tuned).
I’d love to get some feedback on this. Those of you who do SBG, how much input have you given your students? What have I missed in my lists? Thanks in advance (and have fun in NOLA those friends of mine at the winter AAPT right now).