This is part 1 of a 3 part series on pre-class learning strategies, which can be used as part of the flipped or inverted class. I have discussed why I implement pre-class learning strategies in the past and want to focus instead more on the how in these posts.
- Part 1 focuses on some common types of assignments/assessments that you can use.
- Part 2 will focus on some different ways that you provide your students with the resources that they will be using to do some learning before coming to class.
- Part 3 will discuss some tips and some issues that I have come across trying to implement learning before class strategies.
Common pre-class assignments
These are types of pre-class assignments that I have tried out in my own classes or have heard of being in use out in the wild. Part 2 will go into more detail on the learning resources you can provide to your students, but most of these assignments types will work well with commonly used “flipped class” resources such as textbook readings, pencasts, screencasts and multimedia video.
- Reading Quiz - Reading quizzes are usually administered at the beginning of class and marked for correctness. I have used clickers, bubble sheets and index cards to administer them. The problem with reading quizzes is that they have to be reasonably easy and target recall or very basic understanding so that students that put in an honest effort to do the reading will get most of the questions correct. As a result it is hard to come up with questions that aren’t reasonably easy to guess. The administration through index cards refers to the times that I have asked them to draw or explain something in a way that shows their understanding, but the overall performance of the class on these types of questions has usually ended up being low. I moved on from reading quizzes after just one term of using them.
- Guided Reading Quiz - Instead of asking the students to read and try to figure out what are the most important ideas from their pre-class resources, you supply them with a set of questions to guide their initial learning. And then a small handful of those questions are used for the start of class reading quiz. I have not tried this in my own courses, but I came across it in a effectiveness of peer instruction in computing paper by my friend and former CWSEI STLF Beth Simon. If I was teaching a giant section of a course, I think that I might use this method. If the students try to take a shortcut and just learn the answers to the questions, they still end up touching base with the most important points from the pre-class resources (assuming well-constructed questions) which means the assignment will still have accomplished its purpose. Haha, gotcha shortcut-takers.
- Pre-Class Online Participation Questions - This is my generic name for the type of pre-class assignments used in Just-in-Time-Teaching . Students are asked to answer questions online (through your CMS, online homework system or plain old email) at least a couple of hours before class, giving you time to review their answers and modify your lesson plan or seed your class notes with their words and questions. These questions are not marked for correctness, but are instead marked for completion, usually based on answers that show that the student put in some reasonable level of effort to learn the material. I get the most mileage out of asking them to answer relatively easy conceptual multiple-choice questions and asking them to explain their answer. Easy is a very relative term and I am usually happy if anywhere from 50-100% of the students are able to get the question correct after consuming the pre-class resources, but it is most important to me that I can see from their explanations that they had to mash the ideas around in their head a bit before being able to answer the question. For these questions I usually just pull a clicker question straight out of my notes. Other types of questions that work well for this type of assignment are estimation questions and short calculations (I will be discussing when these go poorly in Part 3). As I have discussed in a previous post, this is the style of pre-class assignment I currently use for all my courses (intro, upper-year and labs) other than my project-based upper-year lab course. One of my main open questions with this type of assignment (to be discussed more in Part 3) is how best to provide feedback to the students.
- Student-Generated Questions - (added an hour after the orginal post went live) I can’t believe I forgot to include this. As part of the pre-class online participation question assignments I usually provide an extra box on the web-form where they are encouraged to ask any questions that they have regarding the content in question. If there are some common themes to these questions I bring them up in class. For more isolated questions that won’t be addressed in class, I usually respond to that student’s question via email. This year in my 3rd-year quantum class I had the students generate some questions after reading an 8-page excerpt on the postulates of quantum mechanics and some compare/contrast points between classical and quantum mechanics. They generated fantastic questions and we spent a whole period going through these questions and tying the ideas from these questions to each other and to their previous courses. The best part was that if I had prepared a lecture to discuss those exact same ideas from their questions without having had them first generate the questions, they would have been nowhere near as invested in what I had to say. It really personalized the whole thing. I want to try this type of thing again in the future.
- Summaries - Get them to write a paragraph or three summarizing the main ideas or their understanding of the pre-class resources.
- Reflective Writing - The purpose of the student writing in this type of assignment is for them to focus on the ideas that they are having trouble understanding and to highlight or summarize those ideas through their writing. This type of assignment is marked for completion and evidence that they were writing for their own understanding, but is not marked for correctness. Calvin Kalman is a proponent of this type of writing to learn strategy.
This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past couple of weeks or so.
Reflections on Standards-Based Grading
Lots of end-of-year reflections from SBG implementers
- SBG with voice revisions – Andy Rundquist only accepts (re)assessments where he can hear the student’s voice. When they hand in a problem solution, it basically has to be a screencast or pencast (livescribe pen) submission. The post is his reflections on what worked, what didn’t and what to do next time.
- Standards-Based Feedback and SBG Reflections – Bret Benesh has two SBG-posts one after the other. I was especially fond of the one on Standards-Based Feedback where he proposes that students would not receive standards-based grades throughout the term but would instead produce a portfolio of their work which best showed their mastery for each standard. This one got my mind racing and my fingers typing.
- A Small Tweak and a Feedback Inequality - Dan Anderson posts about providing feedback-only on the first assessment in nerd form: Feedback > Feedback + Grade > Grade. This is his take on the same issue which lead Bret Benesh to thinking about Standards-Based Feedback, when there is a grade and feedback provided, the students focus all their attention on the grade. He also has a neat system of calculating the final score for an assessments.
- Reflections on SBG – Roger Wistar (computer science teacher) discusses his SBG journey and the good and bad of his experience so far.
- Modeling Workshop: Week 1 (Fear and Respect The Hestenes) – Shawn Cornally tells us about his first week at a summer modeling workshop and he seems to be loving it.
Flipped classrooms and screencasting
- Lecturing, Screencasting, Flipped Classrooms – Mylene posts some thoughts about lecturing after attending a recent webinar on flipped classrooms. Great conversation ensues in the comments.
- How I make screencasts: The whiteboard screencast – Robert Talbert continues on with his how-to screencast series.
- Why should I use peer instruction in my class? – Peter uses a study on student (non)learning from video by the Kansas State Physics Education Research Group to help answer this question. The short answer is “Because they give the students and you to ability to assess the current level of understanding of the concepts. Current, right now, before it’s too late and the house of cards you’re so carefully building come crashing down.”
The tale of sciencegeekgirl’s career
- How a Scientist Became a Freelance Science Writer – Stephanie Chasteen (sciencegeekgirl) talks about how she earned her physics PhD while also developing as a science writer.
Getting them to do stuff they are interested in
- The Future of Education Without Coercion (Video) – Shawn Cornally (Think Thank Thunk blog) talks about how to rethink what exactly productive student work is. And it all starts with getting them to do stuff that they’re interested in.
- Angry Birds in the Physics Classroom – Speaking of things most people are interested in, Frank Noschese posts about some physics-based investigations students can do using Angry Birds.
John Burk gets busy
- John Burk (Quantum Progress blog) has been a very busy blogger over the past couple of weeks. Highlights include a couple of Rhett Allain-esque Google doodle analyses (here and here), some Arduino fun (stay tuned for my post on DAQ systems which includes arduino), “The time has come to stop playing defense and change education” (let’s not just sit there and criticize Khan Academy, let’s go out and show what can be done that is better), and a first vPython assignment for high school students.
I seem to have some sort of a knack for writing comments that are longer than my original post ever was. Simon Bates commented on my last post about possibly flipping a couple of courses at his own institution and I started to write a long comment on some extra things to consider, which I may have discussed had I written a post about flipping my courses in general as opposed to a post specifically about flipping a third-year Quantum Mechanics course. Here is what I was writing as a reply to Simon, massaged instead into a post.
SmartPhysics as an alternative to making my own screencasts for intro Physics
For those teaching intro physics that are more interested in screencasting/pre-class multimedia video presentations instead of pre-class reading assignments, you might wish to take a look at SmartPhysics. It’s a package developed by the PER group at UIUC that consists of online homework, online pre-class multimedia presentations and a shorter than usual textbook (read: cheaper than usual) because there are no end-of-chapter questions in the book, and the book’s presentation is geared more toward being a student reference since the multi-media presentations take care of the the “first time encountering a topic” level of exposition. My understanding is that they paid great attention to Mayer’s research on minimizing cognitive load during multimedia presentations. I will be using SmartPhysics for my first time this coming fall and will certainly write a post about my experience once I’m up and running.
Level of student participation in pre-lecture learning
I have found that student participation on the pre-class reading assignments with introductory physics students (no matter how many marks I dangle in front of them) is at best the same as student homework completion percentages. In my case this is around 80% and I have heard similar numbers from others. The thing that I have found the most challenging in using pre-class reading assignments is resisting quickly “catching-up” the 20% that didn’t complete the pre-class assignment. In the end, this just reinforces their behaviour and makes the whole process of flipping my class somewhat redundant. Since my class-time is mostly driven by clicker questions, it seems that the reluctant 20% end up building a bit of an understanding of the topic at hand through peer discussion. Of course, the students in that 20% tend to clump themselves together physically in the classroom making things even more challenging for themselves.
Getting started on screencasting
In terms of the resources to help get you up and running doing actual screencasts, some folks in PLN that have posted about their experiences include: Mylene at Shifting Phases (in these post you will find a great conversation that we had about screencasting vs. reading assignments there), Andy Rundquist at SuperFly Physics, and Robert Talbert at Casting Out Nines.
This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past week or so. Some of these things may turn out to be seeds for future posts.
Screencasting in education
Last week I posted links to a couple of posts on screencasting as part of a collection of posts on flipped/inverted classrooms in higher education. Well this week I’m going to post some more on just screencasting.
- I mentioned this last week, but Robert Talbert has started a series of posts on how he makes screencasts.
- Roger Freedman goes all meta on us and posts a screencast about using screencasts (well, it’s actually about his flipped a.k.a. inverted classroom and how he uses screencasts as part of that).
- Andy Rundquist talks about using screencasting to grade and provide feedback. He also gets his students to submit homework problems or SBG assessments via screencast. He has a ton of other posts on how he uses screencasting in the classroom.
- It’s unofficially official that #scast is the hashtag of choice for talking about screencasting on twitter.
- Added March 10: Mylene from the Shifting Phases blog talks about some of the nuts and bolts of preparing her screencasts including pointing out how the improved lesson planning helps her remember to discuss all the important little points.
I taught a 3rd-year quantum mechanics course last year and encouraged the students, using a very small bonus marks bribe, to read the text before coming to class. I think that due to the dense nature of the material, their preparation time would be much more productive and enjoyable if I created screencasts for the basic concepts and then had a chance to work on derivations, examples and synthesis in class. With the reading assignments they were forced to try to deal with basic concepts, synthesis, derivations and examples on their own which was asking quite a lot for their first contact with all those new ideas. I’m pretty interested to try out screencasting and
I have been scheming for a while to bring the Arduino microprocessor (a.k.a. very small open-source computer) into my electronics courses starting with a 2nd year lab. Arduino is a favorite of home hobbyists and the greater make community.
- Phil Wagner from the Broken Airplane blog gets in even earlier than I am planning to and talks about teaching “Modern Electronics” to high school students with Arduino. He even has some tutorials if you want to try the fun out for yourself.
This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past week or so. Some of these things may turn out to be seeds for future posts.
Standards-based grading in higher education
I am very fond of the idea of basing a student’s grade on what they can do by the end of the course instead of penalizing them for what they can’t do along the way when they are still in the process of learning. I also love the huge potential to side-step test anxiety and cramming.
Folks using this grading scheme/philosophy (a.k.a. the SBG borg) are mostly found at the high-school level, but there are some folks in higher ed implementing it as well. I am strongly considering trying out SBG in one of my future upper-division courses, such as Quantum Mechanics, but there are some implementation issues that I want to resolve before I completely sell myself on trying it out. I am in the middle of writing a post about these issues and look forward to discussing them with those that are interested.
Special thanks go to Jason Buell from the Always Formative Blog for bringing most of these higher ed SBG folks to my attention. He has a great bunch of posts on SBG implementation that fork out from this main page.
SBG implementations in higher ed:
- Andy Runquist is using collaboarative oral assessments as part of his SBG implementation. This is the only higher ed Physics implementation that I have encountered so far and I have been chatting Andy up a ton about what he is up to in his first implementation.
- Adam Glesser from the GL(s,R) blog has tons of SBG posts: He is in his first year of a full SBG implementation in his Calculus courses. He gets bonus points for being a boardgame geek and playing Zelda with his 4-year old son.
- Sue VanHattum talks about wading into the water as she slowly moves into SBG implementations by way of a mastery learning implementation. Search her blog for other SBG posts.
- Bret Benesh comes up with a new grading system for his math courses with help from the SBG borg.
- Added March 10: Mylene teaches technical school electronics courses and replaces the achievement levels for each standard with a system where the standards build on each other and are assessed using the binary yup or nope system.
That’s it for this week. Enjoy the interwebs everybody.