Assessment Fridays

Long-time readers of my blog know that August and January often feature posts with crazy syllabus brainstorms. This is one of those.

I’m teaching calc-based General Physics 2 this fall (yes, gen phys 2 in the fall, deal with it) for the first time in four years. A ton has changed in my teaching in those four years and I’m trying to figure out what to put into this class. I’m committed to doing Standards-Based Grading, and I think I know how I’ll do my standards list. What I’m thinking about today is how to structure the class days. Last time I taught the course I did a pretty “traditional” flipped class approach. This time I want to do my new back flip approach. Here’s what I’m kicking around so far:

  • Use 2 days per week as content days. That leads to something like 25 standards for the semester
    • We’d start with some sort of exploration
      • Maybe a chapter problem to learn the new vocabulary
      • Maybe a demo where I ask them to make predictions
      • Maybe an online demo where I ask them to predict what various things do
      • Maybe a discussion of their experience with the new topic if that makes sense
      • Some or all of this could be done in small groups
    • Develop a list of the big ideas that will need resources
      • break down a typical problem to figure out the approaches/facts/issues involved
      • Figure out whether we should spend class time/scast time/or book time on these
      • work some simple problems in small groups
        • report (kind of like a board meeting in the Modeling curriculum)
    • Determine the standard of the day
      • “I can . . .” will be the structure
      • this could lead to debate over things like “I can calculate” vs “I can derive” vs “I can explain”
  • Use the third day of the week as a free-for-all review/connect/assess day
    • Use Google Moderator to collect the questions/issues that students have throughout the week
      • GM is great because the students can crowd-source the priorities of these
    • Build groups of students who want to focus on different things
      • Have them determine an assessment
        • student-built problem, oral assessment, something
        • I might possibly have them all do a paper quiz instead or in addition
    • I’m not quite sure what I would do beyond going around and occasionally engaging with different groups
    • I’m also not sure if students will really know where they would need to be

I’m a little nervous that only having 2 hours of new content time per week will be tough, but I love the notion of an assessment day. I’m also really excited about a weekly Google Moderator series happening, because they’ll see the value in up-voting the things that they really need help with.

Your thoughts? Here are some starters for you

  • I’m scheduled to be in this class and I think this is great. Here’s why . . .
  • I’m scheduled to be in this class and I think this sucks. When are you in your office to sign my drop card?
  • A free-for-all assessment day could be a good idea. Here are some ways you can really make it work . . .
  • A free-for-all assessment day is a really dumb idea. Here are some better uses of your (and they students’) time
  • Squeezing the content into two days will help the students keep an eye on the big picture. I think that’s great and here’s how to make it even better . . .
  • Squeezing the content into two days will tell the students that only big ideas matter. They won’t learn problem solving skills
  • How will you handle reassessments?
  • Why do you like bullet points so much?
  • It’s late in August, what have you been doing? [ANSWER: refactoring my home-built LMS]

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
This entry was posted in sbar, sbg, syllabus creation, teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Assessment Fridays

  1. bretbenesh says:

    I think that this is a great idea; I did something similar in the spring, and I was very happy with it. I think that students could really use time to digest stuff. Also, it seems like more assessment is more better.

    That said, I also try to compress the content in my semester to give them longer to digest it, and this is in conflict with building in time during the semester. This semester, compressing the content is winning for me. Ultimately, it comes down to “would you rather have these days regularly throughout the semester, or would you rather have a whole bunch of them at the end of the semester?” I start thinking that I prefer the former, but I can’t quite handle the idea of students only having one week to play around with, say, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus (if I build in these days during the semester, we wouldn’t hit the FToC until December; as I have it now, we will hit it in late October, so they have 1.5 months to really get to know it).

    So I am torn (and rambling). However, it seems like putting the assessment days on Friday is going to work brilliantly for what you are doing. Do it.

  2. Pingback: What if they don’t do it? | SuperFly Physics

  3. Joss Ives says:

    I certainly never have a problem with sacrificing instructional time for assessment time since they learn a ton in the assessments and in preparing for them.

    But I want to discuss your backflip a bit instead. When reading through your proposed initial explorations, I am wondering if you might want to consider committing to an ISLE-like approach for those initial explorations. I’m really starting to take to heart Eugenia’s thoughts on asking students to do predictions on things for which they have almost no real resources to draw upon so are mostly just guessing. Side note: I’m starting to think that I would really like to spend sabbatical time in a well-ISLEed course and in an FIU-ed Modelling course.

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