Thursday, May 31, 2012

A New Rubric

I will teach Math 20 again in the Summer term.

Sumer term classes can be dreadful.  Instead of a normal class with twenty 80-minute lectures (two per week for ten weeks) the term is shrunk to have fifteen 110-minute classes (two per week for seven and half weeks).

Math is simply not appropriate for 110-minute lectures.  Even with normally memorable information research has shown that student retention plummets after about 20 minutes.  Math is even worse because of how "I can follow the lecture" and "I can do open book homework" are actually two surprisingly different levels of understanding.

Test days are also awkward.  Devoting an entire class to a midterm now uses up too much time.  Trying to mix lecture and test during the same class is problematic.  So many small quizzes work better.  (I also provide take-home midterms that are worth barely any points.  These are mainly to help students with test anxiety get some test practice before the final exam arrives.  When I did this in the past many students took the take-home test in the math tutoring center instead of at home without proctoring or a rigidly enforced time limit to make the experience as realistic practice as possible for the final exam.)

For this upcoming Summer term I have a plan.  Even though I am taking the time to type it out it is still a very rough-draft plan.  I would appreciate any constructive feedback.
Homework includes both math problems and reading some lecture before class.

The first 20 minutes of class (more or less) I will go over the assignment.  I will summarize and clarify the "homework lecture" and do a few an example problems.

Then students will have 5 minutes to "finish" the notes they took on the assigned reading.  This will give them a chance in class to merge the textbook explanations, my online notes, our recent class discussion, and their own thoughts into one resource for future studying.  I can circulate and whisper constructive comments.

Then I will write three problems on the board to be treated as an open-notes quiz for about 15 minutes.   Students will need to provide step-by-step answers.  One problem will be a word problem for which they will need to pay attention to the problem solving process.  I have composed a homework rubric that makes my expectations clear.

After time is up for the quiz I will ask for student volunteers to share either their notes or their quiz answers.  They can explain what they did and why, and I can provide additional commentary on how their work avoided common pitfalls and/or could benefit from certain changes.

Then, at roughly 50 minutes into class, I will start my lecture for the new topic.  This will be slightly challenging for me because I'll need to focus on the parts of my established lectures that most need class time: the tricky parts or the parts that produce class discussion.

Finally, the last 10 minutes of class will be a chance to start the next homework assignment in groups.
Overall, I am decreasing my lecture time by about one-third from sixty minutes per topic to forty minutes per topic.  Students will be asked to compensate by being responsible for reading the "easy third" of my lectures along with their other homework.  In exchange they get more time with personalized feedback during class time.

I'll also try to find links to good online lectures and example problems, and add these to my online lecture notes.  That will help support students understand my lecture notes while reading them at home.

Sound okay?  What part of the plan needs improvement?  What might go wrong that I should keep in mind?

1 comment:

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