I’ve been teaching my calc-based general physics II course for a couple weeks now and I thought I’d get some thoughts down on how my assessment strategy is working. Quick description: Assign four problems per class day and use a 4-sided die to randomly select one of them to be the quiz at the beginning of the next class period. We discuss as a class how to “turn it inside out” and then they have 10 minutes to do it.
- I think students are putting much more time into learning how to do problems than last year.
- Grading is pretty straight forward, with everyone getting a single standard score using my Frank-Noschese-stolen rubric.
- Someone usually groans after the die rolls. Sometimes it’s me.
- The “turning inside out” takes up some time, usually 3-4 minutes. That means when it’s all done and they’ve turned it in and they’ve gotten into groups we only have about 45 minutes left. It’s not the end of the world, especially as I see value in the conversation about turning things inside out, but I’m nervous about it.
- My friend Joss had a really interesting comment on my last post about this, and I do see some evidence that this is happening. Basically he talked about students finding the governing equation for a problem and just plugging in the knowns to solve for the unknowns. That seems like it could be what we want our students to do, but I think I’d rather have them thinking about physics than memorizing governing equations.
- The fact that Monday’s quizzes overwrite one of the scores from the previous week still takes some getting used to by my students.
- I didn’t realize how much I would like the fact that I can have a much larger impact on what they’re practicing by picking particular types of problems. I tend to assign one “Question” type problem that the chapters have, 1-2 “exercises,” and 1-2 “problems.” Last year every reassessment was an “exercise.” I can have them attack problems of all sorts. For example, all the symmetry types are showing up for the Gauss’ law problems they’re doing for an upcoming class. Last year students just submitted re-assessments on whatever symmetry they understood the best.
- I really like the forced reassessments on Monday. On Fridays we have a review session (the nb.mit.edu usage hasn’t really taken off for that, but we’ll see) and then over the weekend they have 2 problems on Monday’s info and 2 on Wednesday’s info. It’s great to have them really reviewing stuff before we move on.
- There was a problem this past week that involved figuring out the force on a charge based on the location of 2 other charges. All I did to “turn it inside out” was change the sign of one of those charges. It fundamentally changed all the directions in the problem, and the class had an average of about 2 out of 4 on that one. I thought it was really interesting that such a seemingly minor change caused such problems for them. It makes me a little nervous that that type of change, ie the type that I’m excited about making them really think, is too deep/subtle/hard for them to swallow in 10 minutes.
Overall I’m pretty happy about it. We’ll see if any of them chime in on this post below in the comments section to see if they like it.
Your thoughts? Here’s some starters for you:
- I’m in this class and I really like the quizzes. What I like best about this approach is . . .
- I’m in this class and I really don’t like the quizzes. What I think would be better is . . .
- I like to assign problems that take a while to do. Isn’t 10 minutes too short?
- I’ve been wrestling with whether Joss’ concern is something to be worried about or not. I think that . . .
- I wouldn’t waste time having the students help you turn problems inside out (also, I think it’s bourgeois of you to constantly put that in quotes). I’d just figure out how I’d want them changed ahead of time and just tell them right after the die roll what the quiz is.
- I think that the “turning inside out” discussion is probably one of the most valuable things you seem to be doing with your students. I think you should do way more of “that,” even at the cost of not even doing the quiz.
- This is all a waste of time. You should use class time getting them to talk with each other and really learn, not regurgitate the work they’re doing outside of class. Don’t you trust them to do what’s best for their learning?
- I stumbled onto this blog after I heard that you did a gig with Bill Nye once. I’m really disappointed that there’s not image of him in this post.