February 9, 2012, 8:48 pm
Today I was excited to attend the startup meeting for a faculty learning community on the scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”) here at GVSU. This group is sponsored and facilitated by our Faculty Teaching and Learning Center; it consists of the FTLC director and fellow faculty members from philosophy, history, computer science, and movement sciences. (And me.) Together over the next calendar year, we’re going to be working together to help each other develop research questions and projects in SoTL and serve as a sounding board for each others’ ideas.
I’ve been an end-user of SoTL for a long time and have done a lot of you might call “scholarship” in SoTL — for example all the writing and speaking I’ve done about the inverted classroom and clickers — but I’ve not done what I consider actual research in SoTL. One of the reasons I came to GVSU was to have the time, space, and …
January 5, 2012, 8:00 am
By the time you read this, I’ll be heading back home to Michigan from the AMS/MAA Joint Meetings. Yesterday was the first day of the actual conference, and since it was the only day of the conference I was in attendance, I tried to pack in as much as I could. Here’s a rundown of what I saw.
I attended a talk on “The Separability Problem in Referendum Elections” by my GVSU colleague Jonathan Hodge in the AMS Special Session on the Mathematics of Decisions, Elections, and Games. I knew Jon worked in game theory but I had never seen a sustained scholarly presentation of his work before. It was impressive. What I appreciate the most about Jon’s research is its blend of real-world accessibility with mathematical depth. Also impressive was the amount of collaboration with undergraduates Jon did as a part of the research; three of those undergrads were in the audience.
Next was a talk on…
January 4, 2012, 8:00 am
I have been using clickers in my classes for three years now, and for me, there’s no going back. The “agile teaching” model that clickers enable suits my teaching style very well and helps my students learn. But I have to say that until reading this Educause article on the flight out to Boston on Sunday, I hadn’t given much thought to how the clicker implementation model chosen by the institution might affect how my students learn.
Different institutions implement clickers differently, of course. The article studies three different implementation models: the students-pay-without-incentive (SPWOI) approach, where students buy the clickers for class but the class has no graded component for clicker use; the the students-pay-with-incentive (SPWI) approach, where students purchase clickers and there’s some grade incentive in class for using them (usually participation credit, but this can…
October 25, 2011, 7:30 am
I just gave midterm evaluations in my classes, and for the item about “What could we be doing differently to make the class better?”, many students put down: Do more examples at the board. I think I’ve seen that request more often than any other in my classes at midterm. This is a legitimate request (it’s not like they’re asking for free points or an extra day in the weekend), but honestly, I’m hesitant to give in to it. Why? Two reasons.
First, doing more examples at the board means more lecturing, therefore less active learning, and therefore more passivity and dependence by students on authority. That’s bad. Second, we can’t add more time to the meetings, so doing more examples means either going through them in less detail or else using examples that are overly simple. In the first case, we have less time for questions and deep thought, and therefore more passivity and dependence….
September 15, 2011, 8:52 pm
Right now I’m teaching a course called Communicating in Mathematics, which serves two purposes. First, it’s a transitional course for students heading from the freshman calculus sequence into more theoretical upper-level math courses. We learn about logic, how to formulate and test mathematical conjectures, and we spend a lot of time learning how to write correct mathematical proofs. And therein is the second purpose: The course is also labelled as a “Supplemental Writing Skills” course at Grand Valley, which means that a large portion of the class, and of the course grade, is based on writing. (Here are the specifics
.) It’s a sort of second-semester, discipline-specific composition class. (Students at GVSU have to have two of these SWS courses, each in different…
May 9, 2011, 7:43 am
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A while back I wondered out loud whether it was possible to implement the inverted or “flipped” classroom in a targeted way. Can you invert the classroom for some portions of a course and keep it “normal” for others? Or does inverting the classroom have to be all-or-nothing if it is to work at all? After reading the comments on that piece, I began to think that the targeted approach could work if you handled it right. So I gave it a shot in my linear algebra class (that is coming to a close this week).
The grades in the class come primarily from in-class assessments and take-home assessments. The former are like regular tests and the latter are more like take-home tests with limited collaboration. We had online homework through WeBWorK but otherwise I assigned practice exercises from the book but …
April 12, 2011, 8:07 pm
I’m finally through one of the busiest three months I think I’ve ever spent in this business, so hopefully I can get around to more regular posting here. The last big thing that I did as part of this busy stretch also happened to be one of the coolest things I’ve done in a while: I got to do a clicker workshop for some of the senior staff of the Johnson County Humane Society.
It turns out that someone had donated a set of 50 TurningPoint RF cards and a receiver to the Humane Society for use in educational programming — but nobody at the Humane Society knew how to use them or had any idea what they could do with them. One of the leaders in the Humane Society saw an email announcing a workshop I was doing on campus and contacted me about training. We had a great workshop last Friday and came up with some very cool ideas for using clickers in the elementary schools to teach kids about…
February 25, 2011, 8:00 am
This article is the second one that I’ve done for Education Debate at Online Schools. It first appeared there on Tuesday this week, and now that it’s fermented a little I’m crossposting it here.
The University of South Florida‘s mathematics department has begun a pilot project to redesign its lower-level mathematics courses, like College Algebra, around a large-scale infusion of technology. This “new way of teaching college math” (to use the article’s language) involves clickers, lecture capture, software-based practice tools, and online homework systems. It’s an ambitious attempt to “teach [students] how to teach themselves”, in the words of professor and project participant Fran Hopf.
It’s a pilot project, so it remains to be seen if this approach makes a difference in improving the pass rates for students in lower-level math courses like College Algebra, which have been at around 60…
December 21, 2010, 4:41 pm
Fall Semester 2010 is in the books, and I’m heading into an extended holiday break with the family. Rather than not blog at all for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting (possibly auto-posting) some short items that take a look back at the semester just ended — it was a very eventful one from a teaching standpoint — and a look ahead and what’s coming up in 2011.
I’ll start with the look head to January 2011. We have a January term at my school, and thanks to my membership on the Promotion and Tenure Committee — which does all its review work during January — I’ve been exempt from teaching during Winter Term since 2006 when I was elected to the committee. This year I am on a subcommittee with only three files to review, so I have a relatively luxurious amount of time before Spring semester gets cranked up in February. A time, that is, which is immediately gobbled up by the…