What if they don’t do it?

I’m still refining yesterday’s idea of having one day a week for assessment/review/integration in my General Physics II course. As often happens, I’m narrowing in on an idea/approach that I think could really help students learn, but there’s always the fear that they won’t do what’s necessary to get enough out of it.

An example of that is my traditional flipped class approach from a few years ago. I carefully crafted some screencasts trying to elucidate some of the harder issues in the text and came into class hoping we’d all be ready to hit the ground running. Unfortunately I never seemed to have more than about 1/3 of the class ready. Looking at viewing statistics backed that up, though it was interesting to note that the vids were viewed a ton leading up to any assessments.

So here’s my pie-in-the-sky thoughts about this weekly assessment day. First I would respond to the top 5 few questions from the weekly Google Moderator series. Those would be questions entered throughout the week on the content of the week. That would take 15 minutes. Then we’d do a 15 minute quiz. Then the students would collectively identify the additional resources they’d need to help them understand the material better for future reassessments (note that the whole Google Moderator series would likely help in that conversation).

Why do I call it pie-in-the-sky? Because it really relies on students doing a number of things throughout the week

  • Use class time to explore the landscape of the material and request useful resources that I would provide before the end of that class day’s day (that sounds confusing).
  • Utilize the resources I provide to learn more of the details of the content. This should be heavily interspersed with working as many problems as they can to get ready for the quiz
  • Both submit and vote on questions/issues in the Google Moderator series.
  • Working together in the last 30 minutes of the assessment day to figure out what they need to improve their understanding of the material
  • Commit to doing reassessments (these can be videos, office visits, virtual office visits, etc)

If some or all of those break down, the assessment day is a big waste of time (except the 15 minute quiz, I suppose). I’m very cognizant of that because I’m proposing doing 18 chapters using only 28 days of instruction time.

The hope is that the students will see the value of all of the proposed activities. They’ll see how all class days are really opportunities for them to request specific resources that will help them (worked example problems are surely going to be very popular). They’ll work problems with an eye toward doing well on the quiz (oh, and to learn, I suppose). They’ll use Google Moderator to make sure that class time isn’t “wasted” on less important issues (note: in student evaluations in the past I’ve had students complain that I answered every question and wasted class time working on what were really easy ideas).

One concern of course is that they’ll do everything and ace the quiz, making the second half of the reassessment day a waste of time. I’m not really concerned about that, but I could imagine stronger students thinking that way.

My good friend Bret Benesh commented on my last post about the usefulness of giving students lots of time to understand material. I thought about maybe pushing the quiz on this week’s material off to next week. But, in my experience, that just means the students will push off to that week the work needed to do well on that quiz. That could work, of course, especially if we pushed off the google moderator series too, but I think I want all of that happening in the week when they’re seeing all of this in class.

So, what could I do if the students don’t do what’s best for their learning? Here are some starters for you:

  • I’m in this class and I’m intrigued. What happens if . . .
  • I’m in this class and I’m worried. What about when . . .
  • If the students don’t do the work, it’s their problem. You should plow ahead and . . .
  • If the students don’t do the work, you’ll have to change the approach toward . . .
  • I like Bret’s idea, here’s how you could make that work better . . .
  • They’ll never do any homework problems is you don’t collect them. Here’s an idea that’ll make that work in your Standards-Based Grading system . . .

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.

7 Responses to What if they don’t do it?

  1. achmorrison says:

    “I’m very cognizant of that because I’m proposing doing 18 chapters using only 28 days of instruction time.”

    How will the class be different (better or worse) if you only covered 16 chapters? Or 15? 14? What is the likely impact on the student’s academic/career/life path if they have seen fewer chapters in this class, but know the material from those chapters at a deeper level?

    I don’t really care much for aphorisms, but someone once told me in a teaching workshop that if you want to cover more material I should get a shovel because then I could cover as much material as I wanted and the students would learn it the same. There’s some nugget of truth in there. I think it’s important that the science education community come to grips with the idea that it is OKAY to cover fewer topics with the idea that students are better prepared to learn that material on their own.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      Surely “covering” less would work out better, but these 18 chapters came about from a big reshuffling of our intro sequence several years ago. Last time I taught it I thought it worked for a 14-week semester, and this time I’ll be using just 2 less days for new content (since last time I had several in-class exams and reviews).

  2. bretbenesh says:

    I didn’t mean to suggest that you give students more time in this manner (although I would if you did not allow for reassessments). I was thinking on a more macro level: I think a student is more likely to understand an idea by the end of the course if she has two months to think about it rather than two weeks. So I am fully behind your plan.

    I also think it is a really good idea. If it fails, it fails. This just means that you get an extra day of instruction per week, which isn’t too bad of a thing. But I think that you have the teaching chops to pull this off—I bet the students get behind you.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      thanks, Bret, I appreciate the vote of confidence!

      On Thu, Aug 21, 2014 at 2:16 PM, SuperFly Physics wrote:


  3. Kevin C. says:

    I’m in this class and I’m worried. What about when not enough people engage with the Google Moderator series. With online participation being an important factor in the proper use of assessment days, the lack of student response to this blog article (despite your request to read and post) could be a warning sign about the use of online class features during the semester.

    It is likely however, that we students will make better use of Google Moderator since it will be during the semester and our grade will indirectly depend on our participation.

    Either way, I’m looking forward to next week!

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      The current plan is to have participation in the GM stuff impact the grade in the following way: if you don’t do any, you’re graded on everything in the class as normal. The more you do (up to 10 questions throughout the course), the more I’ll scale the rest of the class down and then add points back in. This would turn a C- to a C+ or so and a B+ to and A- but probably wouldn’t affect an A- or A. Thanks for the comment, I’m really excited about next week too!

  4. Pingback: Google moderator use in class | SuperFly Physics

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