November 25, 2014, 9:10 am
It’s been a while since our last 4+1 interview, so I am very happy to get this series going again. In these interviews, we pick an interesting person somewhere in math, education, or technology and ask four questions along with a special +1 bonus question at the end.
Our guest this time is Linda Nilson, founding director of the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation at Clemson University. She’s the author of numerous papers and books on teaching and learning in higher education, including the essential Teaching At Its Best, and she gives regular speaking and workshop engagements around the country on teaching and learning. Her latest book, Specifications Grading: Restoring Rigor, Motivating Students, and Saving Faculty Time, is IMO maybe the most innovative, provocative, and potentially revolutionary one she’s done, and that’s the focus of the interview.
I first met Linda …
June 5, 2012, 8:00 am
I haven’t given many updates lately about, well, anything, but especially about my Calculus 2 class. Freakishly, we are 2/3 of the way through the course now. First of all let me say that there’s something seriously wrong with having a midterm in a class after three weeks, and then a final exam three weeks later. Students should have more time to dread those things.
I kid, but actually the biggest adjustment I’ve made in the class — and teaching a class that’s as compressed as this one is all about paying close attention to everything that happens and being nimble about making adjustments — has been the testing scheme. I know that I posted earlier about my idea of having in-class assessments that were smaller than the usual test, more frequent, and which leveraged student collaboration and the real-life social network of the class. But after a couple of tries with this, I dropped it…
May 14, 2012, 7:30 am
Week 1 of the 6-week Calculus 2 course is over, and of course it felt like 2.5 weeks of class because that’s the exchange rate between this course and a normal 14-week course. It was challenging for the students, but I feel like they are on board with what we’re doing. I was especially pleased with the outcome of one of the distinctives of this class: the in-class assessments which are called, er, Assessments.
I said at the outset that the key thing with this class was to force the issue on assimilation of material, and part of that was to engage in early, small, and frequent assessment. For formative assessment, we do daily online homework and clicker questions. There’s no requirement to get clicker questions right at all, and WeBWorK sets have no limits on number of attempts or the amount of collaboration or technology used. For summative assessment, we have a midterm exam and a…
February 26, 2008, 9:59 pm
One of the reasons I brought up the notion of getting rid of our current conception of student evaluations is that I’ve had too many courses in which things seems to be going just fine during the semester, and then I get comments on student course evaluations about things that I cannot even recognize as having happened in the class. Something minor happens, for example, in week 5, and it goes unchecked, and grows ineffably until what the student sees is some huge shortcoming on the course’s part — on my part — and I get hammered on the evaluations for it, even though when I read the written comments I cannot even usually fathom what it is the student is referencing.
So this semester I decided that I needed to do something about this, namely just simply paying more attention every week to how students are doing, generally, in my classes. Especially in the freshman classes, where the…
January 23, 2008, 7:34 pm
Coming fresh off my two-week stint doing promotion and tenure portfolio evaluations, I’m in the middle of a three-day blitz to design and prepare all three of my spring semester courses — Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Differential Equations. Why go so fast, you ask, since classes don’t start for another week? Simple. I am wanting, badly, to go see Cloverfield and the only hope I have of doing so with two kids under 4 is to go during the day when they’re in school. So I need to get stuff done!
That bit of professionalism aside, I was going to say, course design has been on my mind a lot in the last few days. Especially assessment. I wanted to throw out a major change in the way I approach assessment in my classes that I started to use last semester and am building in prominently in my spring courses. The model is as follows:
- Assessments are to be clearly delineated into two types: