tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-46526501744749610682018-03-06T01:01:48.542-08:00Applied AbstractionsMy thoughts on teaching mathematics, using technology to teach, and finding ways to become better at both.Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.comBlogger149125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-24340437905484637272018-01-30T10:00:00.000-08:002018-01-30T21:37:23.787-08:00Framing mistakes as a learning opportunityIn a mathematics class mistakes are really tricky. Many students have a very simple view of mistakes; they are bad and should be avoided. Unfortunately being human beings, we all make mistakes, even in a math class. Even me, at the front of the classroom, I will make mistakes. Hopefully we use these mistakes as learning opportunities, which we can only really do if we stop and reflect on what happened, and how to prevent it from happening again.<br /><br />I made a mistake last week during one of my class's online quizzes, I made a very simple mistake in the setup of the question. Whenever this happens I am usually alerted by an industrious student, and fix the mistake.<br /><br />During a previous class I shared a list of questions I had to answer when writing a student recommendation for an internship. One of the questions we discussed was "Does the student ask for help when needed?" In most situations it is preferable for someone to ask questions in order to know what they should do, than it is to have someone perform work they do not know how to complete. The time in detecting these errors, fixing them, and mediating any negative consequences is considerable, not counting money or other resources. No wonder an employer would want an intern (or employee) to ask questions when confused.<br /><br />So this error cropped up in an online quiz, and we just talked about asking for help when needed. So I naturally asked "How many students will send me a message?", if they really listened to our discussion of this question they would ask for help when needed. Out of 29, 3 students sent me a message asking about this question. Ok, so they didn't hear me, not a big surprise. Whenever I talk about topics that are not math (study skills, organization, soft skills, group work, etc.) students usually tune out.<br /><br />In class the next day I shared the story of the <a href="https://www.wired.com/2010/11/1110mars-climate-observer-report/">Mars Climate Orbiter</a>. Long story short, a $350 million probe burned up in the Martian atmosphere because someone did not check the units of a calculation. This definitely go their attention, as it usually does; no one expects literal rocket scientists to make mistakes, let alone really simple ones. After talking about the orbiter I had a few questions for students:<br /><ul><li>Was this a preventable mistake?</li><li>Was this a significant mistake?</li><li>Do you think NASA learned from the mistake?</li><li>How many people here have made mistakes in their classwork during the last week?</li><li>How many people learned from those mistakes?</li><li>Are your mistakes preventable?</li><li>Are your mistakes significant?</li><li>Did any of your mistakes cost $350 million?</li><li>Do you have space in this class to make mistakes through unlimited attempts completing homework questions, Quiz corrections, and working with others in class?</li></ul><div>We had some real-talk on making mistakes in math, and how they are part of learning the course material. By making it clear that I expect students to make mistakes ("Make them early and often.") and to learn from them I hope to lessen student fear of making mistakes, the stigma associated with them, and to reframe student's expectations of me. I regularly ask students to reflect on making study plans, if they were able to follow their initial study plan, what factors prevented them from following their plan, and what they are going to do in the future to prevent these factors from getting in the way. </div><div><br /></div><div>In the future I would like to do a few things with this theme of making mistakes:</div><div><ul><li>A POGIL-like activity where students read through a description of the Mars Climate Orbiter, and come to some of these conclusions themselves.</li><li>Demonstrate the role reflection plays in learning from mistakes. </li><li>Tie this into the growth mindset, a very natural place to discuss these issues. </li></ul><div>How do you address mistakes in your classroom? Do you do any specific activities with students to frame mistakes as learning opportunities?</div></div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-42366496934837311812017-12-29T11:20:00.001-08:002017-12-29T11:23:07.057-08:00Faculty Focus: Students' Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Five Ways to Break the CycleThe article <a href="https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/five-ways-help-students-break-self-fulfilling-prophecies/?utm_campaign=shareaholic">Students' Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Five Ways to Break the Cycle</a> from Faculty Focus does a great job of identifying areas faculty can help students develop a positive self-image regarding their studies. In math classes I feel this issue is especially acute, given how many times students are unwilling to offer answers or solutions for fear of being labeled 'stupid' or worse.<br /><br /><br /><br />I do a few of the suggestions in my current setup:<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><ol><li><b>Provide opportunities for metacognition.</b> During the weekly binder checklists, and group quizzes, students have an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned and how. During nightly Check-Ins students are asked to think about the material from the day, and how well they know it. </li><li><b>Flip roles.</b> In using the POGIL roles every student has a responsibility, and occasionally will become the manager of the group that day. In addition to "<span style="background-color: white; color: #282828; font-family: "georgia" , "times" , serif; font-size: 16px;">Creating leadership roles empower students who feel disenfranchised.</span>" it also provides structure to the group work, my main motivation for using them. </li><li><b>Create check-in points.</b> My nightly Check-Ins are graded based on completion, and sometimes include the "muddiest point", "most important point", and "write a question to build understanding" questions. </li><li><b>Build in moments for dialogue.</b> While my Check-Ins do have reflection questions, they don't specifically address negative self-image in the class. This is one question category I will try to incorporate into Check-Ins this term. Questions like "What if, after doing a bunch of homework and getting some questions right and some questions wrong, you start to feel discouraged? You start to feel like you just can't get this stuff, and that you're not 'smart'. What are you going to tell yourself to get out of this funk, and back on track?"</li><li><b>Point it out.</b> In my mini-lectures I do try to address process skills, and one of my usual 'spiels' is addressing anxiety and negative self-image. I try to relate to students explaining that I have anxiety about how each class will go, and that I use that anxiety to prepare for that class. I also make it clear that grades are a measure of understanding, not whether you are a good person or not. </li></ol><div>What do you do to disrupt a student's negative self-image, or their unhelpful self-fulfilling prophecies? </div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-33559457843609954302016-09-09T12:37:00.002-07:002016-09-09T12:37:21.155-07:00NEA Higher Education Advocate is actually pretty useful!I am sure many of you get the National Education Association's little 'magazine' Higher Education Advocate. It is usually filled with either the higher education equivalent to fluff pieces on the local news, or legal/political issues that effect higher education. However, if you pull your September 2016 issue (Vol. 34, No. 4) out of the round filing cabinet, in the Thriving in Academe feature you will find an article by James M. Lang titled <i>Small Teaching: Lessons for Faculty from the Science of Learning</i>. Lessons for <i>me</i>? Based on actual <i>science</i>? Get out!<br /><br />Really though, I feel like education today is similar to alchemy in its final stages; lore, superstition, and patterns that were not rigorously tested, and a new challenger approaches in the Enlightenment and the scientific method. Much of what I have read is based on educator's experience, and what has worked and not worked for them in the past. This is great and wonderful, and I eat it all up, but shouldn't there be an empirical way of looking at education informed by cognitive science? I know cognition and epistemology are not everyone's cup of tea, but it seems that we have to get into it a bit to know which best practices are actually 'best'.<br /><br />Lang breaks up his recommendations during four parts of the class session; right before class, opening class, the "long middle" of the class, and the ending of the class. He recommends instilling some kind of wonder or awe in the "right before class" section, which I can see working well in mathematics classes, if done correctly. Possibly a news-related result, or a classic fable like Xeno's Paradox, doubling rice grains on a chess board, etc. In the opening of the class he recommends asking students what they did in the previous class, in my mind activating prior knowledge, and building connections to that day's material. I do this in my daily Quizzes, but he seems to make it a bit more conversational. I like that, but unsure if I can squeeze it in my current setup.<br /><br />During the middle of the class he recommends some notebook thing, I don't know, it didn't seem all that useful. What made an impact was his suggestion about the end of the class; a one-minute 'paper' answering one of the questions "What question remains in your mind after today's class?", and "What was the most important thing you learned today?" These reminded me of the 'Stickiest Point' question one of my tenure advisers suggested I use, and I have incorporated them into my post-class quizzes in our learning management system. The first question makes good use of a student's recall ability, points to areas an instructor could address next class, but is also broad enough that a student could ask how the ideas of that class connect to past or future classes. The second question also has students practice recall, but also asks them to summarize the content in their own words or possibly describe something new they learned about themselves.<br /><br />Granted, all of the questions have a fatal flaw; a student could answer any of them with two to four words. In my post-class quizzes I award credit based on completion, and thus these students earn credit for poor answers. I do push that in these types of reflection questions you only get out what you put in; by taking the time to reflect on the question and your answer, you provide yourself another opportunity to think and learn about the material.<br /><br />Coincidentally (or not) this article's title is also the title of his <a href="http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118944496.html">book</a>, which will go on my long cobweb-collecting reading list.<br /><br />What do you think? Did you read the article? Are you going to read his book? What are small things you are trying this term?<br /><br /><br />Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-45863159549083359992016-09-08T12:30:00.000-07:002016-09-08T12:30:09.712-07:00Pre-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.<br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><br /></div><ul><li>I've been browsing <i><a href="http://www.nctm.org/store/Products/Technology-Supported-Mathematics-Learning-Environments-67th-Yearbook-(2005)/">Technology-Supported Mathematics Learning Environments 67th Yearbook (2005)</a></i> and while focused on a K-12 audience, I have taken up a few ideas from it:</li><ul><li><i>Teaching Strategies for Developing Judicious Technology Use</i> 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.<br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-mB6ckSDcRMc/V9Gjzg_94rI/AAAAAAAALFY/6dX0rXGRtCMDxyxK5TJ88VIUQV6PyfM3QCPcB/s1600/IMG_20160908_104227427.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="640" src="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-mB6ckSDcRMc/V9Gjzg_94rI/AAAAAAAALFY/6dX0rXGRtCMDxyxK5TJ88VIUQV6PyfM3QCPcB/s640/IMG_20160908_104227427.jpg" width="360" /></a><br /></div></li><li><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: left;"><i>Comparing Distributions and Growing Samples by Hand and with a Computer Tool</i> 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:</div></li><blockquote class="tr_bq"><ul><li>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. </li></ul></blockquote>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.<br /><br /></ul><li><i>Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty</i> 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 <i>Motivating students to learn</i> by Brophy (2004). <br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Xptw2UMIRGg/V9G0B2gsUKI/AAAAAAAALGk/BHaJom7bBI09pnNzNVBEZwFwU7aRrgpCACPcB/s1600/IMG_20160908_115043960.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em; text-align: center;"><img border="0" height="640" src="https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Xptw2UMIRGg/V9G0B2gsUKI/AAAAAAAALGk/BHaJom7bBI09pnNzNVBEZwFwU7aRrgpCACPcB/s640/IMG_20160908_115043960.jpg" width="414" /></a><br /><br /></div>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.<br /><br />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.<br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-4TAC26-ITig/V9G3AhTYM8I/AAAAAAAALHA/CxmMDnGunOwYXFtrJCvvR1Q4RlEn48bPACKgB/s1600/IMG_20160908_120107805.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em; text-align: center;"><img border="0" height="640" src="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-4TAC26-ITig/V9G3AhTYM8I/AAAAAAAALHA/CxmMDnGunOwYXFtrJCvvR1Q4RlEn48bPACKgB/s640/IMG_20160908_120107805.jpg" width="394" /></a></div></li></ul><div style="text-align: left;">So in summary, for my Fall Statistics course I will:</div><div style="text-align: left;"><ul><li>Include judicious technology use questions throughout in-class activities. </li><li>Have questions that ask students to interpret their calculations, and make decisions based on them. </li><li>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. </li><li>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. </li></ul><div>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. </div></div><ul><ul></ul></ul>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-64475133856185379562016-07-27T12:12:00.002-07:002016-07-27T12:12:29.251-07:00Starting the Guided Pathways conversation at my insitution<div class="discussion-section message_wrapper"> <div class="message user_content enhanced" data-bind="message">I applied to and was accepted to the Clark College Summer Guided Pathways Institute. It is a four day workshop that looks to start the conversation on Guided Pathways (GP) at the college. There have been a number of readings that have discussed the data supporting the use of GPs, different models used, and how Choice Architecture can be applied to helping undergraduates choose majors and/or programs.<br /><br />Overall I have been really impressed with the thoughtful and smart people in the institute. The conversations have always been positive, constructive, and shared different perspectives I would not have normally encountered in my day-to-day. The readings have been helpful to see what other institutions are doing, and we've begun to think about what parts of these programs we want to try.<br /><br />Below is a version of a discussion forum post I made to the course site. Feel free to add your thoughts, or comments below.<br /><br />I finished <a class="" data-api-endpoint="https://clarkcollege.instructure.com/api/v1/courses/1339094/files/67927401" data-api-returntype="File" href="https://clarkcollege.instructure.com/courses/1339094/files/67927401/download" target="" title="">Implementing Guided Pathways at Miami Dade College: A Case Study</a> and had a few thoughts.<br /> <ol><li>The recommendation "Integrate academic programs and student support services." seemed on-point for our campus. The few times I have reached out to support services the results have always been positive, and we achieved more than I could as an individual instructor. I get the sense that faculty occasionally feel like the world is on our shoulders, when we can (and should) share the load with student support service staff. In most cases they may be better trained and equipped to help in certain situations and with specific student populations. I would love to see a way to integrate these two pillars of the college through Canvas, CTC Link, or some other medium.</li><li>The recommendation "Increase student engagement through communities of interest." is very appealing, and would strengthen a number of goals in the Academic Plan. These communities could be students from the same meta-major, and supported through a 'wrap-around' class. As the terms progress students could be exposed to other classes they may want to take, student clubs they may find interesting, student government positions that are open, career services for their industry, and the talks and seminars we regularly put on. (The STEM Seminar Series is awesome btw.) I could also envision these communities of interest organized around specific themes, or the big intractable problems of the day. A Global Warming Group could contain students from biology, government, engineering, and a variety of other meta-majors to talk about the causes, 'controversy', solutions, market applications, and the other facets of this problem.</li><li>The "Getting Faculty Buy-In at the Front End" issue, in my view, is one of the thornier questions of this entire endeavor. What does the arc of developing these pathways look like when some faculty don't even recognize the problem?</li><li>"Because of the initial positive results from the restructured intake process and the added revenue generated by the improved retention, the college's leadership approved the hiring of <strong>25 new full-time advisors</strong>." (emphasis mine) This was not something I thought very much about until reading this article; increased retention rates would help provide for the funding of the continued development of pathways. It may also increase our ability to try new initiatives within pathways as they develop over time.</li><li>"Overall, the largest threat to institutional redesign at MDC was organizational inertia. Communicating frequently about progress, building consensus, and creating a sense of urgency were vital to creating a sense of shared ownership and to generating momentum for change across the college." Once we leave this institute, what group/committee/mechanism will there be to communicate progress on developing pathways? How are expectations for progress going to be set? Can the 2016 Fall Term Faculty Workdays be structured in a way to move this forward?</li></ol></div></div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-22269507714606852482016-02-19T12:48:00.001-08:002016-02-19T12:48:11.224-08:00Lots of little changes to classes this week. I've been making little tweaks to my classes based on student performance and responses. All of these actions are being taken on qualitative data, not quantitative data, which isn't a bad thing, but something I want to move away from. I would like to develop some metrics over spring break to put into place next term that would help me make these decisions based on data. Percentage of available homework in the online system (WAMAP) that is complete, number of zero quizzes, and other metrics would help in making data-driven decisions.<br /><br />My tweaks this week:<br /><br /><ul><li>In Calculus I students were to complete the homework on the related rates section on Tuesday. Most did not. This was not completely surprising, the topic is a physical application, and the setup of each question can take a while. Additionally this homework took quite a bit more time than others, so even if they budgeted for it, they may not have budgeted appropriately. I gave them an additional six days, to Monday at 11:59 PM, the day of our next exam. </li><li>Also in Calculus I we are currently talking about graphing functions, using information about the first derivative and second derivative. This is a difficult section because it includes conceptual knowledge about these derivatives, and quite a bit of computation. For today's quiz in the morning class I divided students into two groups. One group would work on graphing one function, the other group, another function. For the first five minutes students were to work on it themselves. Next five minutes students were to work with a partner. Last five minutes students were to working with all the students who had the same function. Each group would have one person present the question. After trying it out, only one group presented, and I finished the other question. To let them using the quiz as a study aide, I allowed them to take it home, but to get credit they would have to email me a hand-drawn graph of the function I presented. </li><li>In College Algebra I did not have a pre-made quiz to start the day so I had students take out a sheet of paper, write one of the questions we have been talking about, give it to another student, and have them solve the question. Overall it was a fun activity, albeit a little broccoli covered in cheese. At the end I talked about how I like them making these questions, </li></ul><div>What change in course structure, grading, or presentation did you make on the fly that worked well? That didn't work so well? Feel free to share below. </div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-89396401575683068112016-02-16T16:29:00.002-08:002016-02-16T16:29:54.434-08:00Same course, different terms, completely different classes.Last term I taught MATH151 Calculus I in the morning daily, and it felt so RIGHT. The pacing of the class, my in-class examples, questions from students, the schedule, the end of week activities that have students explore different topics, everything felt like the best it could ever be. This term for whatever reason things are not going so well. I'm teaching two sections of the class and both feel wildly different.<br /><br />The morning class seems tired, not really 'there', and swings between general bewilderment and complete boredom at what we're doing. Test scores are low, and there are still (WEEK 7!) students who haven't registered for the online homework system. I've even started moving back to lecturing two days a week since participation through the in-class examples has been low. There are a number of students who think of mathematics in very linear terms which limits their ability to solve application questions, but at the same time their work is unorganized. Other students are unprepared to complete most of the algebra in the course, whom I fear are not going to pass for this reason. In this class I feel like a task master.<br /><br />The afternoon class is energetic, but has a habit of going off the rails at the slightest provocation. I have to do a lot of sheep-dogging (making sure the group is together) as we go through each question. In-class examples are better received with this class, and they work well in groups, but questions that require a long, sustained method are difficult. Numeric outcomes for this class are generally positive, but I wonder if they are getting the conceptual understanding down. In this class I feel like a positive guide to the discipline.<br /><br />I hope this doesn't come across as complaining about my students, it just seems that a class reflects both the instructor and students, as it is a culture both groups are building together. I'm coming to recognize that each class has to be different because it contains different people in it. I may have 'empirical' ('imperial'?) methods and assessments, but if they don't somehow reflect the students in the course am I being as effective as I could be?Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-65852605805617566812016-02-09T13:16:00.001-08:002016-02-09T13:16:30.056-08:00Experienced Faculty = Font of practical knowledge and hard truths. I recently had an observation by an experienced faculty member and they gave me some great advice that I thought I would pass along.<br /><br /><ul><li>Trying to use random whiteboard markers that don't work looks bad. Every college classroom has an assortment of whiteboard markers in the tray that people have left. Some work, and some don't. When an instructor tries to make a point, but their marker doesn't work it brings up thoughts of the absent-minded professor who isn't prepared for their class. While this is a minor issue it is one that helps set the tone of the class. Solution? Bring your own supply of whiteboard markers, with some kind of tape or rubber band to mark them. </li><li>Every instructor apparently has some kind of verbal tick. Some phrase or series of words that they use as a crutch to fill the empty space between actual words. Mine? "Right?" I have heard that I use "Right?" before, but after forty times this faculty member stopped counting. I think I get into a 'flow' and don't really think about my word usage sometimes. Since being told this I am trying to be very conscientious about the words that come out of my mouth, but sometimes I just get back into that flow. The observer did ask "If its not harmful to students, is it really something you need to worry about?" to which my answer is no. At the same time, I don't like the idea that my language is not controllable and that sometimes I just say stuff. </li><li>I pack <b>a lot</b> of material into my courses. Some of it could be done by students ahead of time. In this particular lesson I was having students graph rational functions using their calculator. We were then looking at the patterns in the graphs, factors of the numerator and denominator, etc. looking for the specific patterns we discuss with this subject. The observer mentioned that students can do a lot of this work ahead of time. </li></ul><div>What advice have you received from an observation? Did you incorporate feedback into your teaching?</div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-7345130558578747342015-11-23T16:39:00.001-08:002015-11-23T16:39:12.724-08:00Changing things up! How to inject discussions into quizzes. I offer daily quizzes in all my classes. I know that might seem scary to a few (developing, grading, student anxiety) but it is one of the few times I get to see students 'work'. These quizzes are based on three levels of participation (5 points = a quality attempt, 2 points = a minimal attempt, 0 points = no attempt) and have a variety of purposes <a href="http://appliedabstractions.blogspot.com/2015/09/new-year-new-me-sorta.html">which I have talked about before</a>. I do review them right after the student's attempt for additional feedback, to model a solution method, and to start the day's lesson.<br /><br />In Calculus I we are reviewing the limit definition of the integral. Suffice it to say that this is a difficult area because it relies on both conceptual understanding, but also computational understanding of things we have not seen together (limits, summation, etc.) There are three major tasks for each question; setting up a generalized area formula, taking a summation of these areas, and then taking the limit of these areas. The specifics aren't important for this discussion, but if you know them great.<br /><br />So we have a fairly detailed process to learn and students find difficulty in what to do next. Solution: multiple daily quizzes that are similarly structured, break the question down into constituent parts, and provide a model for how students should approach questions in the homework. <a href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/406366/MATH151_Public_Files/MATH151%20-%20Quiz%20-%20Injecting%20Discussion%20into%20Quizzes.docx">This quiz</a> was the last of the four quizzes structured in this way that I gave last week. The only difference between them is the function and the interval we are looking at. (Today's quiz integrated x^2 on [0, x], foreshadowing The FTC.) I had received positive feedback from students that they like how these quizzes broke down the process, and it had helped them in homework.<br /><br />By Friday I felt that students were getting a little bored of reviewing the same type of quiz, so I wanted to shake students up a bit. Humans love novelty and if I can make my class novel and even silly in pursuit of understanding the material, why not? So at the end of the quiz I made a list in my head of those students who had completed the quiz. At that time I called those students my 'exemplars', took their quizzes and tapped them to different walls. They were to then stand by their quiz and explain to others how they found each part of the process. At the end I collected the quizzes and graded them as normal. In hind sight I should have probably identified their quizzes as 'exemplars' and not the students themselves...<br /><br />I think this helped all students develop a better understanding of the process, some by talking to these students who provided exemplar solutions, others by having to explain their method. It was also a nice way to break out in a different way, one where the focus was not on me or my methods, but on other students' methods.<br /><br />Today I asked how last class went, and the response was pretty lukewarm. One student said "I think we got out of it as much as if you went through the quiz." In terms of mathematics, maybe, but in terms of developing connections between students and developing mathematical fluency I think it was better than if I reviewed the quiz.<br /><br />Have you tried something to break students out of their 'shell'? Would you do something like the above for a participation-based quiz? What about for a graded-quiz? What about for a test? Feel free to comment below.<br /><br /><br />Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-14738342501585987602015-10-21T12:06:00.002-07:002015-10-21T19:31:42.664-07:00Is the lecture dead, or just undead?Molly Worthen wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, titled <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/opinion/sunday/lecture-me-really.html?_r=0">"Lecture Me. Really"</a>, which discusses recent research on the lecture format, the push from STEM disciplines to reduce lecturing in favor for active learning, and a solid argument for why lectures are important and relevant. One passage really struck me.<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq"><span style="background-color: white; color: #333333; font-family: georgia, 'times new roman', times, serif; font-size: 16px; line-height: 23px;">Listening continuously and taking notes for an hour is an unusual cognitive experience for most young people. Professors should embrace — and even advertise — lecture courses as an exercise in mindfulness and attention building, a mental workout that counteracts the junk food of nonstop social media.</span></blockquote>Teaching mathematics quite a bit of my course material is computational and skill based; Find the derivative of this polynomial. A good chunk of the other part is conceptual; When the derivative equals -1 at this value of x what does that mean for the function? Applications makeup the rest: What is the velocity of the ball at this time? All three of these parts of my curriculum speak to each other, and inform how to go about each type of task. Usually I do present or lecture over an example, but I have students try these things out on their own in class.<br /><br />When short, quick messages and responses are the expectation we lose the ability to think and speak in big ideas. We forget how to piece all these small parts together and reason with them. This synthesis is what we need today more than ever. To use a cliche, the world is only growing more interconnected and we need to pull from myriad disciplines to make sense of it. By modeling this skill of building and connecting ideas we show students a mature and connected way of looking at the world.<br /><div><br /></div>I wonder though if I should try lecturing a bit more to model exactly this kind connection building. What do you think? Do you lecture? Did you hate lectures as an undergrad? Did you enjoy them? What about in graduate school? I'd love to hear your thoughts.Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-405814407891844232015-09-22T09:54:00.000-07:002015-09-22T17:50:23.954-07:00Activity Planning: Logic and showing conditions hold.A big part of Calculus is showing certain conditions hold. The big example is continuity. There is a very natural interpretation of the idea (If you can draw the graph of a function without picking up your pencil, it is continuous.) but then there is the very technical. (Left and right limits agree, function value must exist, and the limits must agree with the function value.) Just the idea of showing conditions hold is sometimes difficult for students, primary because they have never been asked to do this before.<br /><br />For the first week of my Calculus I course I am doing a lot of review. I know, I know, some of you might yell "But they're in college, you shouldn't have to review." Let's get into that in another post, for now, let's talk what I want them to know <b>before</b> we talk about continuity. I want them to be able to show conditions are satisfied for a definition or theorem. How do we do that? Below are a few ideas, but I would love to hear your thoughts. Share them below!<br /><br /><ul><li>Using plane figures and classification of parallelograms to show whether certain conditions hold or not. </li><li>Giving a variety of pictures where some are classified as a 'thing' and others are not classified as a 'thing' and asking them to create definitions. </li><li>Something to do with the law and fulfilling certain contractual obligations.</li></ul>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-505331423352026042015-09-21T09:38:00.001-07:002015-09-21T09:38:23.920-07:00First day jitters!Question of the day: Why do I always get first day jitters? I have been teaching since 2006 and I still haven't gotten over that first day nervousness of meeting new students. Granted I am at a new institution and I am a little unsure about the population, but I've done this dozens of times by now.<br /><br />How do you get over the first day jitters? Have you?Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-79539943920933742402015-09-08T11:01:00.002-07:002015-09-08T11:01:34.358-07:00New year, new me!... Sorta. With Labor Day ending my focus is (slowly) shifting from Mai Tai's, road trips, and reading for pleasure to the start of a new term and new position. I am now a tenure-track Mathematics Instructor at <a href="http://www.clark.edu/">Clark College</a>, in Vancouver Washington. Having taught college classes since 2006, my path has not been a straight one: BS in Mathematics, MA in Mathematics, working at a few textbook publishers, teaching at seven different colleges, trying out instructional design at a new online college, starting my own business, closing my own business, and (amazingly) now find myself at the second-largest community college in Washington. I taught a couple summer classes to ease into the position, and everything feels right. All my past mistakes have remade themselves into current success. My courses are well designed, have a clear structure and purpose, and I feel confident in the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedagogy">pedagogical </a>and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andragogy">andragogical </a>decisions I make. At the same time I am looking forward to the tenure process and sharing it here.<br /><br />My current 4-month plan:<br /><br /><a href="http://www.clark.edu/academics/catalog/2014/descriptions.php?dep=MATH&fdep=Mathematics">Teaching</a><br /><br /><ul><li>MATH103 College Trigonometry - With a focus on skill-based outcomes, I feel this class would be an excellent candidate for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flipped_classroom">flipping</a>, but I don't know if I have the time to commit to such a project. I have in-class activities for each class that we work through together, but am not sure if I can refit them to this other instructional method. The main thing I would have to add is more instructional text and possibly videos. I know the college has video equipment, but again time really is the issue. I don't like using others' videos for valid reasons (different methods, wording and phrasing, quality) and invalid ones (ego, wanting to provide 'everything' for students). </li><li>MATH111 College Algebra - While there are a number of skill-based outcomes, there are also a few conceptual-based ones that need to be addressed. This being the case a bit more in-class work could be a good idea. The class meets two times a week for 2 hours 20 min, so one single instructional method would not be appropriate. I may have lecture for the first hour, and a group activity the second hour plus. This would require quite a bit of work, but I am hoping to leverage some OER materials. </li><li>MATH151 Calculus I - A fairly typical course that meets five days a week for an hour. I am looking forward to developing my course materials (lectures, quizzes, etc.) here a bit further, but also to have group activities for each Friday. I really want students to start developing effective ways of working with others in STEM-focused areas. Because of this goal these activities need to have an incentive, which is why I'm including them in their grading. I haven't decided upon what grading scheme to use (participation, completion, individual based, group based, etc.), so if you have any suggestions feel free to share. </li></ul><div><u>Common Instructional Methods</u></div><div><ul><li><a href="https://www.wamap.org/">Washington Mathematics Assessment and Placement</a> (WAMAP) - This is a state-wide system for homework questions. I am looking to use this system for online homework for all of my classes. </li><li>Pre-Quizzes - These are short (1-3 questions) 5-minute timed quizzes at the very start of class. This past summer I graded all of them which made them a bit more intimidating than I want. These will now be participation based with three levels of grading; 0 for no attempt, 2 for a minimal attempt, 5 for full attempt. There are three purposes to these quizzes: </li><ul><li>Activate prior knowledge that they need for that day's lecture or activity. This could be anything from a previous course, assumed knowledge of pre-skills, and material we covered already in the course. </li><li>Provide feedback to students as to their standing in the course. Right after students attempt the Pre-Quiz we review it as a class. If it is clear they didn't get things correct they know they should put a bit more time into this material or review those pre-skills. </li><li>I do put a five minute timer on the overhead so this also acts as a bit of 'exposure therapy' for more math anxious students. The goal here is to get them used to this timed environment and be comfortable answer questions in it. My hope is that when test time comes they don't completely dissociate and use the skills they have developed to cope with these Pre-Quizzes. </li></ul><li>In-Class Activities - Primarily for skill-based material, these packets take the place of lecture. They usually include a brief description of the property or idea we are applying and a number of questions. I present one or two of these questions, I then ask students to try a few on their own, and we come together as a class to discuss them. In the past students have been fairly isolated in attempting the questions, but I would like to help build more of a learning community around them. If you have any suggestions feel free to share. </li><li>Group Activities - I would like to do these more often, but they do require quite a bit of time developing. I am looking to use these in my Calculus I course on Fridays as a capstone to the week. These would have more challenging questions and (hopefully) require students to work together. </li></ul></div><br /><u>Tenure</u><br /><br />I have no idea what to expect or prepare for, so my only goal here is to review the policies around tenure and meet with my committee. I will share what information I feel comfortable with, and what the committee feels comfortable with as well.<br /><br /><u>Professional Development</u><br /><br /><ul><li><a href="https://www.coursera.org/">Coursera</a> - I went a little nutty last night and registered for a few classes, so I may have to do some curating of what I actually want to spend time on. I signed up for a number of mathematical classes (<a href="https://www.coursera.org/course/fluidpower">Fundamentals of Fluid Power</a>, <a href="https://www.coursera.org/course/statistics">Data Analysis and Statistical Inference</a>, <a href="https://www.coursera.org/course/modelthinking">Model Thinking</a>) but also some education and research focused classes (<a href="https://www.coursera.org/course/edref">American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice</a>, <a href="https://www.coursera.org/course/qualitativemethods">Qualitative Research Methods</a>) and you know, a fun one, <a href="https://www.coursera.org/course/kierkegaard">Soren Kierkegaard - Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity</a>.</li><li>Training at Clark - Being a new faculty member there are a number of trainings I am scheduled for; policy and procedures, the Clark Learning Community, and LMS-specific sessions. Hopefully I'll be able to share what I learn here. </li><li>I have been thinking about going through a graduate text to keep that feeling of 'I have no idea what I'm doing.' I need to be empathetic to students so I know what to say and do to help them get out of that space. I never got a firm grasp on <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homology_(mathematics)">homology</a>, so if you have any suggestions for a text or a self-paced course on it let me know.</li></ul><div>While I am feeling reinvigorated by all these new projects, ideas, and plans, I am feeling fairly confident in myself at this specific moment of time. Not because I know a lot, but because I have made enough mistakes to know what not to do. </div><div><br /></div><div>If you have any advice, comments, suggestions, criticisms, or general thoughts feel free to share below. Thank you for reading!</div><br /><br />Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-17052224623768761882015-08-04T08:39:00.003-07:002015-08-04T08:39:34.634-07:00Hello Russian friends!I have gotten an influx of traffic from Russia recently and just wanted to welcome you all to this blog. If you have any questions or would like to see specific types of content or material, just let me know.Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-55793321758709406162015-06-15T11:31:00.001-07:002015-06-15T11:46:45.026-07:00Reflections: What I do once a class ends.This is the second in my line of posts about <a href="http://appliedabstractions.blogspot.com/search/label/reflections">reflections</a>, why they're useful, what I do to reflect, and what I do to help my students reflect on their own performance. Today we're looking at what I do at the end of the term, and how I prepare for the next time I teach a class. As an adjunct I regularly teach the same classes from term-to-term and anything I can do to help my future self quickly prepare for a class is beneficial.<br /><div><br /></div><div>At the start of each term we all have ideas about learning activities, assessments, grading structures, rubrics, and other aspects of how we are going to run (or at least manage) a course. At the end of a term we have seen how they have worked, how they didn't, and ideas for how to make them better. During finals week, for each class I take a half-hour to an hour and write a page or two on all the components of a course. This is a short example of what I started with for my Calculus III course:</div><div><br /></div><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/406366/IMG_20150615_104835727.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img alt="Two notes, one focusing on the overall course, and the second on series notation. " border="0" height="225" src="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/406366/IMG_20150615_104835727.jpg" title="Calculus III Reflection notes." width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Calculus III Reflections notes. </td></tr></tbody></table><div>These are very <b>rough</b> notes. Some of these notes I would have probably edited for wider distribution ("... if you don't force them to!"). But this is what I wrote when I was trying to get these ideas on paper. And this is the point of this exercise, get your ideas on paper quickly before the term is over and you forget. I usually create these notes during my final exams, so I can see all my students and remember what worked and didn't work for them. It also helps me think of policies to include in the syllabus if there was a particular situation that arose with a student. I include these notes in the front of my course folder.</div><div><br /></div><div>At the start of the next term, I open my course folder and the first thing I see is this list of do's and don'ts, and don't even think about it's. These notes have helped me start preparing for a course much more quickly. I can focus on what needs to be revised, updated, or created, instead of wondering what I did last time. </div><div><br /></div><div>What do you do to at the end of each term to help yourself prepare for the next? Please share your experiences with me here on the blog, on <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/robertweston82">LinkedIn</a>, or <a href="https://twitter.com/rw_161803399">Twitter</a>. </div><div><br /></div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-60637456445242538152015-06-08T16:22:00.001-07:002015-06-15T11:00:41.577-07:00Reflections: Just like checking solutions, something else we don't do, but should.Living time linearly it is sometimes hard to think back and remember how classes started. I always start with good intentions, like "I am going to return every piece of graded material back by the next class session." or "I will create a dynamic learner-centered classroom." or "Active Learning is my watchword." or some other well-intended but doomed to failure dictum. To help make these things a reality for myself, but also for my students, I'm starting to institute end-of-term reflections. My next few posts will explore two types of reflections I am using this term, how they started, and how they are working out this term.<br /><br /><ul><li>Student Reflections - These have taken the form of a 1 point extra credit assignment after a student has completed their final. This short, 5 question assignment asks them to think about what they should have done this term, and what they will do next term. </li><li>Course Reflections - After finishing a class I will write a page about what worked, what didn't work, and what to do next time. </li></ul><div>Stay tuned this week for my reflections... about reflections? (R-squared? R(R(x))?) And feel free to add your own!</div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-58409162883823419792015-05-08T10:52:00.000-07:002015-05-08T10:52:28.481-07:00Finally! A Win! How I expressed my concerns and students actually listened. I had a Win yesterday! A capital 'W' Win! It kind of made my day and thought I'd share it with you all.<div><br /></div><div>This term I am teaching an alternative pathway mathematics course. Traditionally students are expected to take anywhere between 1-4 remedial mathematics courses, for which they don't get college credit. These courses are not college-level (below 100-level), so they get credits for taking them but they don't apply to degree programs or requirements. For each remedial math course a student takes their chances of failing (and subsequently) dropping out increase. So to help non-STEM students get around these courses (which are frequently focused on STEM students) many colleges and universities are trying these alternative pathway courses. Many other <a href="http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/in-action/pathways-improvement-communities/">organizations</a> and <a href="http://www.nctm.org/News-and-Calendar/Messages-from-the-President/Archive/J_-Michael-Shaughnessy/Endless-Algebra%E2%80%94the-Deadly-Pathway-from-High-School-Mathematics-to-College-Mathematics/">publications </a>have talked about this trend.</div><div><br /></div><div>One of the instructional methods in the course is group work. There are a number of times in a class where I or my co-teacher might say "Let's have you all work on the next question as a group." I find this to be a great way for students to learn from each other, develop their communication skills about mathematics, and help build a learner-centered classroom. The drawback has always been their propensity for getting off-topic. Giving them space for talking through these questions has turned into a space where they can talk about everything else.</div><div><br /></div><div>Yesterday I started a topic and I could already feel the wheels coming off. Students started chatting (albeit quietly) and it was clear they were not on-topic. I could also feel myself start building up with anger and frustration. From previous experiences I knew I could not just say how I was feeling, but I needed to put into context of what students were doing, and what I expect them to. So I laid it out to them in something like this:</div><div><br /></div><blockquote class="tr_bq">I really enjoy how we can talk about many different topics in this course, and it is really rewarding for me. But this class (as a whole) has a habit of getting off-topic. I know this course is structured a bit differently and it allows you all to talk through questions. This is very different than my other classes where the focus is on lectures and I know exactly what will happen next. So what I would like today is for all of use to be a little more focused, and stay on-task. Again, I love talking to you guys, but we have material to talk about today.</blockquote>After that, they paid attention, focused on the material, asked some great questions, and I even received some praise from my co-teacher someone I look up to. A capital 'W' Win!Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-30294439903628239792015-04-20T09:52:00.002-07:002015-04-20T09:52:39.024-07:00Twitter, Statistics, and Failure: What I can learn from other's successes. The Chronicle just posted the article <a href="http://chronicle.com/article/article-content/229379/">"With Twitter, Statistics 101 Takes Flight"</a> by <a href="https://twitter.com/ferristician?lang=en">Mark E. Ferris</a> about his use of Twitter to help students understand how statistics is used in different contexts. Overall he does a great job of offering a structured learning activity that exposes his students to uses of statistics. A short summary:<br /><ul><li>Requires all students to create a Twitter account for the course. </li><li>Each week students are to follow 10 new statistics-based organizations, post 7 tweets about statistics (retweets of those organization's posts?), retweet 2 of Ferris' posts to keep up on the topics he is covering on his feed, and post 2-3 tweets of their own by discussing interesting statistics they find. </li><li>Each Tuesday they are to do a short write-up of one of their weekly tweets, which is worth 15 percent of their grade. </li></ul><div>This made me think of my own recent failed attempt to use Twitter to teach statistics. This term I am teaching Inferential Statistics and I thought I would offer students an alternative method to communicate about the course. (While I love Moodle, I know Moodle Discussion Forums are not that exciting.) I did not make it part of the grade, but merely suggested it at the start of the term. I think you can get an idea of how it went....</div><div><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en">Hey everyone! Feel free to use this hashtag for discussions about statistics, inference, and the course in general. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CCCStatsII?src=hash">#CCCStatsII</a><br />— Robert Weston (@rw_161803399) <a href="https://twitter.com/rw_161803399/status/582349962572214272">March 30, 2015</a></blockquote>This is the <b>only</b> tweet with the hashtag #CCCStatsII, so I suppose its rare and valuable, I guess? (I wonder how much I could get for it...) After talking to students further it was clear that none of them had a Twitter account, and didn't really see the point in what I was doing. This is the first time I have taught this course and creating a whole new assignment category on the fly during Week 2 did not sound very appealing, so I dropped it. The idea ended in failure, but after Ferris' article I think I'll try it again with additional structure, and make it part of their grade.<br /><br />Have you used Twitter in any of your classes? Do you have any tips or suggestions? Feel free to share below!<br /><script async="" charset="utf-8" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script></div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-87936399933107417712015-04-11T12:07:00.000-07:002015-04-11T12:07:00.945-07:00Pre-Calculus, the next topic in need of reform?Jack Rotman did (or is doing) an <a href="http://www.devmathrevival.net/?page_id=2144">interesting presentation</a> at the <a href="http://sections.maa.org/michigan/15meeting.html">2015 Michigan Mathematics Meetings</a> looking at Pre-Calculus reform. He draws an analogy to the current Developmental Mathematics reforms (alternative pathway, career-ready, etc.), shares some data on Michigan's approach to Pre-Calculus, and asks that big question "Are Pre-Calculus classes really preparing students for Calculus?"<br /><br />I think its pretty safe to say that most states are in a similar situation regarding Pre-Calculus where colleges and universities have different requirements. In academia I know we don't like comparing institutions, but when students are transferring between different institutions (especially with costs going up) a certain level of state-wide consistency is beneficial to everyone. Students learn material that actually prepares them for the next course/future content, dropout rates lower (as a consequence of having to take less classes), completion times lower, etc.Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-18340786584014340662015-03-24T14:31:00.001-07:002015-03-24T14:31:09.320-07:00Excellent article on why stating Learning Objectives might not be the best thing.<p dir="ltr"><u>While</u> going through the Quality Matters training it always seemed a bit odd to share the learning objectives with students right away. From the design side they are absolutely necessary, from a student engagement perspective they always seemed dull. <a href="http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/2015/03/7-reasons-why-we-need-to-kill-boring.html?m=1">This</a><a href="http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/2015/03/7-reasons-why-we-need-to-kill-boring.html?m=1"> </a><a href="http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/2015/03/7-reasons-why-we-need-to-kill-boring.html?m=1">article</a> by Donald Clark verbalizes what I was having issues with. Definitely makes me rethink reviewing outcomes on the first day of class.</p>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-63503895684390063912015-03-24T12:35:00.003-07:002015-03-24T12:35:53.698-07:00Spring Break! Beer, sun, and crazy parties!... I mean prepping courses, and catching up on friends.So that whole promise of regular updates was not fulfilled, at all. Not even an epsilon's worth. Sorry about that. I'm good at lists though, so let's write some of those.<br /><br />Courses for Spring Term 2015<br /><br /><ul><li>Contemporary Mathematics - This is a new course and is part of a state-wide effort to offer an alternate pathway for non-STEM students the demphasizes algebra. It is the first time the course has been run, and we are using co-teaching to ensure there are enough hands available for the first run through. I hope to post more about this course and provide some context on the state and national levels as well.</li><li>College Algebra - Fifth time I have taught this course, fairly straightforward at this point. However I do want to include more demonstrations of what I expect them to do each week. </li><li>Calculus III - Very excited about this course. I taught it last year for the first time and am looking forward to getting back into it. I would like to include daily quizzes, but I am unsure if I can make that happen this term. I need to balance my time with remember most of what is in...</li><li>Statistics II - This will be the first time I have taught this course, and frankly, I'm pretty rusty on hypothesis testing. I used it when I took the course, touched on some of the ideas in Real Analysis, but other than than, not so much. If you have any suggestions feel free to share below!</li></ul><div>Things I Tried Last Term</div><div><ul><li>Post Exam Reflection Prompts - I had students complete reflection prompts after they completed their second test, and for the most part it did not have the desired effect. Most of their writing was about the course structure, me, and how difficult the material was. My intent was for students to reflect on their performance, how they prepared, and what they want to do differently for the next exam. I have used these prompts in the past for final exams, which seemed to have the desired effect.</li><li><a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/01/27/national-adjunct-walkout-day-approaches-attracting-both-enthusiasm-and-questions">Talk about National Adjunct Walkout Day</a> - While I did not actually walkout, I did talk to students about adjuncts, how they are compensated, and how it affects each student's education. It was a difficult discussion for me to have, but I think it educated students on this important topic. The majority of students had no idea what I was talking about, and for the most part we had a good discussion about who is at the front of their classes. I am thinking of having a short discussion about adjuncts half-way through each course to raise awareness and inform students of what happens at their institutions.</li><li>Using Subjective Measures for Grading - There were a few students this term that were borderline passing. This term I decided to look at their previous exams and really assess what mistakes they made. If they did not understand the basic concepts of the course I did not modify their grade. If it was clear that they understood the majority of the course material, I made an informed decision to modify their grade. Grades should reflect understanding, but purely numeric assessment would ignore my role as the instructor of the course. </li></ul><div>Recently Completed Projects</div><div><ul><li>Manuscript edit for a Geometry workbook - This was to align a text to the <a href="http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter111/index.html">TEKS/TAKS</a>. Fairly straightforward project, but had to negotiate the initial terms a bit more than I expected.</li><li>Exam development for Pre-Calculus - Excellent project. Wrote a few exam questions, worked in telecommuting teams to review exam questions, and made a final 'difficulty' assessment. </li></ul></div><div>Projects on the Back Burner</div><div><ul><li>Video series on a specific math applications. </li><li>K-12 Teacher lesson prep materials.</li><li>Developing this blog.</li></ul></div><div>Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Want to tell me how full of it I am? Write below!</div></div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-12174658635644265602015-02-13T10:03:00.001-08:002015-02-13T10:03:11.568-08:00Why I need everything in an email.Something happened this week in one of my classes that I wanted to share and get your feedback on. Last week a student asked if I could bring a cord so they could connect their calculator to a computer and update their OS. <div><br /></div><div>Student: Did you bring the cord you talked about last week?</div><div>Me: No. Did you email me about it like I asked you to?</div><div>Student: No.... But I asked you last week.</div><div>Me: If it wasn't in an email, I didn't remember.</div><div>Student: [Blank stare.]</div><div><br /></div><div>In general, whenever I talk to a student verbally and they are asking for something, or I need to follow up on something, I ask them to send me an email reminder. With 1-3 such requests each class, for my four college-level classes that adds up to about 4-12 tasks I need to accomplish. To make sure these things are accomplished I use my email as a to-do list, with student emails as the 'things' on my list. </div><div><br /></div><div>What about you? How do you make sure all the small requests and follow-ups are completed in each of your classes?</div><div><br /></div><div><br /></div>Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-76747784725294424192015-01-19T16:55:00.002-08:002015-01-19T16:55:32.364-08:00Coming back to the blog after a hiatus with some new projects.My last post was in mid-November and I'm now getting back to the blog in mid-January. Not the longest time between blog posts, but definitely quite a while. For the Winter 2015 term I am teaching as an adjunct at my home institution and working on a few projects. I'll list the classes below, but the hardest thing is the schedule, three of them are back-to-back (-to-back) between 10 am and 4 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, the fourth at 6 pm. This means I only teach two days a week, but they're pretty rough days. Not being on campus the rest of the week has also given me a disconnected feeling that I can't shake. I may come in on my non-teaching days, but the cost of driving to the campus, as well as the opportunity cost are limiting.<br /><br />The courses I am teaching this term:<br /><br /><ul><li>Algebra I - This below 100-level math course is the second of four such courses offered. There are quite a few resources available (PowerPoint notes, online math homework, etc.) so my prep time is fairly limited. However my time responding to emails and messages is quite a bit more than other classes. These students usually have quite a bit of anxiety, are new to the college experience, and need a bit more guidance than other students. I am happy to help these students, but it does change the focus of my energies.</li><li>Algebra II - The next math course in the series is one I have not taught. There seems to be less support for this course so I am having to prepare quite a bit more. I am focusing on lectures paired with activities, and using the same online math homework as the previous course. Granted not the most innovative structure, but for teaching the course for the first time I'm feeling fairly confident about that choice. </li><li>College Algebra - Two sections of the first 100-level mat course which uses a flipped-classroom model. I have taught this course before so I don't envision many issues.</li></ul><div>There isn't much I want to add to these courses, but I do want students more engaged with the discussion forums in our LMS. If you have any thoughts on how to do this, feel free to share.</div><div><br /></div><div>The rest of the week I will be focusing on the following projects:</div><div><ul><li>Video series on a specific math application. </li><li>K-12 Teacher lesson prep materials.</li><li>Developing this blog.</li><li>Freelance projects for test develop, content development, and editing/writing for textbooks.</li></ul><div>If you have any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to share below. Thanks for reading!</div></div><br /><br />Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-34342714128423390462014-11-17T15:23:00.000-08:002014-11-17T15:23:03.436-08:00How I am teaching culinary math the second time around.After <a href="http://appliedabstractions.blogspot.com/2014/11/reflection-teaching-culinary-math-for.html">teaching culinary math for the first time</a> I've learned a few things, the most important being the primary student learning objective; Complete a recipe costing form. The course does discuss a few topics that are outside of this form, but this one objective contains about 90% of the course material. It might sound a bit funny, it takes teaching a course once to find out the real student learning objective, but as with many things in life "You truly learn something the first time you teach it."<br /><br />For those of you in education you might be asking "What is a recipe costing form?" With a current average of <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/sageworks/2014/06/22/us-restaurants-margins/">5.1% profits</a>, maintaining high efficiency and cost control for restaurants is a necessity. To do that detailed records of how much everything costs must be kept, and the menu prices of dishes need to be firmly based on their costs. Simply put, a recipe cost form is used to determine how much it costs to make a recipe. With the base cost of the recipe, how many servings it will produce, and the target food cost for a restaurant (25-35%) a restaurant manager can get an idea of how much to price a dish. There are other things to consider (target clientele, location, marketing, etc.) but a recipe cost is a good starting point to base prices on.<br /><br />This might sound simple, but there are a few ideas that need to be addressed. As an example, let's look at yield. If you order a pound of potatoes for $2.00, are you going to serve exactly that pound of potatoes? No, you have to skin, trim, and wash them first. You loose a certain amount of the weight (that you paid for), so you now have 87% of that pound (the yield). That pound of potatoes now costs $2.00/87%, or about $2.30. The terminology used is: as-purchased (AP) cost is $2.00/lb but the edible-portion (EP) is $2.30/lb. If a recipe calls for 3 pounds of prepared potatoes (skinned, trimmed, and cleaned) we simply multiply this amount by the EP cost of $2.30/lb to get $6.90. Do that for each of the ingredients, add them up and you have the final recipe cost. These forms setup these calculations in a consistent manner so they are easily done, can be read by other people, and different recipes can be compared. (There is an exception to using yield when a recipe calls for a number of something, like one whole apple. If you paid for each apple, not by the pound, yield isn't necessary since you didn't 'lose' a part that you paid for.)<br /><br />All this is to say that these recipe costing forms are the true final assessments of the course, and using a backwards design model, the course should be focused on getting students to complete them. Thus all the assessments are going to target different aspects of these forms. To scaffold these skills I changed the learning activities (handouts) to include two parts:<br /><br />1. An Exercises portion of various questions that we discuss in-class, with the answers provided at the end. I generally start the day with an example or a discussion of the idea, then do one of the first few questions, and slowly step back my instruction as students attempt more of the questions on their own.<br />2. A Graded portion that they are to turn in over the next few days. Answers are not provided, but they can work with each other.<br /><br />To ensure students complete the Exercises portion I have a notebook check during test days where I review their notebook. These notebooks are not my idea, I have to thank Rhonda Hull at Clackamas Community College for the inspiration. She designed the MTH111 College Algebra course that I teach occasionally, and in addition to using a flipped classroom model, uses notebooks to ensure students are completing their work.<br /><br />I also included a quiz each Wednesday, and a test every second Friday. I like the regularity of these assessments, in the hope that they reduce cognitive load on students, but also allows them to plan on these activities.<br /><br />I'll make a few future posts about how this class goes, the one idea that is outside of the recipe costing form (kitchen ratios) and potentially about a new culinary math project. If you have any questions for me, about the course, my approach, the activities, or anything else, just post a comment below.<br /><br />Thank you for reading!Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4652650174474961068.post-86492401976237142732014-11-10T10:14:00.003-08:002014-11-10T14:48:53.863-08:00Reflection: Teaching culinary math for the first time.Last week marked the end of the math class I taught at a culinary school, and I wanted to reflect on how the term went. I'll have another post about what I intend to do for the next term, which started today<br /><br />Before the course started I did a bit of my own research and found Culinary Math by Blocker and Hill to be immensely helpful. It provided much needed guidance on how to approach teaching certain topics, terminology used in the industry, and various forms and conversions. The school uses a college math textbook that is targeted to general undergraduate students. I have been told this is to save money, but was (and am) frustrated that there is a perfectly good text out there that addresses exactly the kind of knowledge students should know. In fact they used Culinary Math before this textbook. I recommended students buy Culinary Math for their own use, and a number of them did so. Powell's Books seems to have copies for around $17 (where I bought mine) so it didn't seem to be a big hardship for students to buy this in addition to the textbook.<br /><br />At the start I was also worried about student's perception of me being a 'math person' and not being a 'culinary person'. Would they resist me talking about conversions, yields, and fractions because I had never worked in the kitchen? I tried to address it head-on by sharing my independent research, how I read books by chefs regularly, I consider myself a home cook and have made Thanksgiving dinner in addition to regular meals, and tried to be honest about where I was coming from. It seemed to make an impact as students were comfortable talking to me about recipes and other topics.<br /><br />Before this class students had taken 3 6-week terms of culinary classes, and thus had quite a bit of culinary knowledge that I didn't. Because of this imbalance in understanding, I gave them much more leeway in explaining a concept or idea than in other undergraduate classes. Usually I have students attempt an explanation, but if they're getting off track I'll gently correct them by asking a question or pointing something out. Here I didn't feel comfortable doing that, and had students correct each other's arguments in-class. I wasn't explicit that this is what I was doing, but let it happened naturally.<br /><br />The students themselves came from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences with math, and (most importantly) attitudes toward math. One student had pre-calculus classes in high school, others got through with the minimum, and one was home schooled. I tried to target most of the material on authentic examples, but also included 'naked' math questions to delineate if students were having issues with computations or with understanding a contextual question. This seemed to work for everyone, the high-anxiety students had their own understanding of the situations we were talking about (they had worked with measuring cups and volume measures before this class) and the low-anxiety students were able to rely on their previous math experiences.<br /><br />Later this week I'll detail how I'm setting up the next section of this class. If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to share below!Robert Westonhttps://plus.google.com/109197805673813034447noreply@blogger.com0