Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pre-Fall Term Psychic Exorcism: Statistics class ideas on a page

Past two weeks between summer term and the faculty work week has been spent packing (we bought a house!), cooking a lot of good food, watching Star Trek: TNG, and reading a variety of books and articles meant to 'help' my teaching. Not sure if they are helping right now, I just have a lot of ideas floating around in my head that I need to put somewhere, namely here.

  • I've been browsing Technology-Supported Mathematics Learning Environments 67th Yearbook (2005) and while focused on a K-12 audience, I have taken up a few ideas from it:
    • Teaching Strategies for Developing Judicious Technology Use by Ball and Stacey helped address my concerns of letting students run amok with calculators (mathematical totems I call them in class). They suggest, as is a common theme with many education best practices, that we have to model how to use technology tools. And not just their actual use, but whether to use them or not. I am hoping to incorporate some of the strategies below into my in-class activities, through question prompts, discussions, or demonstrations.

    • Comparing Distributions and Growing Samples by Hand and with a Computer Tool by Bakker and Frederickson focused on middle school students and their conceptual development of data, samples, population, and measures of center. This passage in particular struck me:
      • We can compare this situation (focus on calculation of measures of center) to the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It is the substance beneath the surface that makes the iceberg float. In this metaphor, mean, median, and mode are the visible tip of the iceberg. What is beneath the visible surface is the knowledge and skills that students really need to understand and sensibly use these measures of center. 
      While it is necessary to be able to do the computations, it is much more critical for students to develop an understanding of when these measures are appropriate, and then apply and use these numbers in context. This reinforces the need for students to write these numbers in context, and base decisions on them. My in-class activities should always contain summary questions that ask students to write in words what their calculations are, and what they mean.

  • Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty by Barkley offers a wide variety of ways to get students engaged with course material. One I found especially useful was the two-page section on "Try to rebuild the confidence of discouraged and disengaged students." Teaching statistics usually means teaching a student population that has some mathematical knowledge, but are not confident with that knowledge. Below is a list of strategies based on Motivating students to learn by Brophy (2004).

    I tried having students set goals in my summer Calculus course, asking them to describe what their study plan was for the weekend. I think this helped with planning, understanding consequences, and overall helped students understand responsibility. I will definitely incorporate these questions into post-quizzes for my statistics course.

    The entirety of Chapter 8: Tips and Strategies for Promoting Active Learning should be tattooed on my body somewhere. I know and apply a number of the strategies (Activate prior learning, clarify your role, limit and chunk information, etc.) but found the section on "Teach in ways that promote effective transfer." useful. I regularly refer to Bloom's Taxonomy in my classes, but the below table really hit home that your strategies and methods for developing those cognitive tasks should be different for each level of understanding.
So in summary, for my Fall Statistics course I will:
  • Include judicious technology use questions throughout in-class activities. 
  • Have questions that ask students to interpret their calculations, and make decisions based on them. 
  • In announcements and post-quizzes write comments or questions that have students think about what they have accomplished, set realistic goals, go to different support services, and to reflect on their own cognitive processes. 
  • During the start of the course, and during exam review sessions, share the Learning Strategies table and have students determine what a question is asking, at what level, and possibly how they should study for such a question. 
Glad I got those ideas out, and can now refer back to them after the term to keep me accountable. What ideas are floating around in your head for the upcoming term? Any exciting projects, new ways of doing things, assignments, assessments? Feel free to share below. 

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