I have gathered several from the recent conference, talking to other profs, and seredipidity, so I list them here so I don’t forget:
1) Create quiz questions that ask students to analyze something instantly
Most of my quiz questions ask students to carry over something from the readings, which makes sense since I think of the purpose of quizzes is to make sure they did the reading. But today, a student wrote me that there was a quiz question about a source she said was missing from the lecture, a 1949 Ford ad:
I looked and she was right. But she and four others had already taken the quiz. So I checked all four, and added a point for any wrong answer. But then I wanted to change the quiz for the others. So I just change the wording of the question from “Which is not a factor in the 1949 Ford ad?” to “Which is not a factor in this 1949 Ford ad” and added the image of the ad to the question (very easy to do in Canvas — yes, you heard me).
Looking at it, I saw I was asking a completely different question. Instead of asking them to look at the lecture and see something (which wasn’t there anyway) and answer a question on the separate quiz page, I was asking them to analyze the source in front of them. Well, that’s the skill I want to test anyway. Now I’m thinking about all the quiz questions, in all the classes – maybe I could do more application of knowledge, and still keep the questions auto-gradable…
2) Deal with attendance for on-site classes
I tend not to emphasize attendance, since quizzes, sources, and writing are all due in an online format. But this semester I have four students who post work online but do not attend. Since I ask each student to introduce their source as I bring it up on the screen, those students are receiving the same points, while only those attending are doing the further work of presenting what they’ve posted. That’s not fair.
I am very flexible about students who cannot attend, having them instead do work with my online lectures. But those arrangements aren’t being followed by these students, so I will now only assign half points when students post a source but aren’t in class to explain. I wrote emails to this effect half an hour before class. One student returned to class within an hour.
3) Stand fast by open textbooks
I almost abandoned the open textbook American Yawp last week. One reason was because the pdfs created when saving its web pages are too big for printing, and for on-site classes I like students to bring a text to class. The other problem is that there are no ancillaries, no test banks or quizzes. But I decided to keep it, have them read online (or print if they wish), and demand only that the primary sources be printed for in-class analysis. I’ve put in too many hours working with the text to abandon it, and when I looked at other options, they weren’t very good. So I’ve added “Book Notes” in front of my lectures, and my plan is to bring the chapter up on the screen and “annotate” it aloud to start class. As for quizzes, I’m adding a chapter summary to the homework, right before the part where they get to bring in something that interests them.
4) Consider PlayPosit
Students watching videos tend to be passive about it. Tools like PlayPosit allow the instructor to force a video to stop a video at any point, and start again only after a student answers a question or reads a note. A student watching a lecture (I have these for my early American online class) would have to stop and be “accountable” for what they’ve seen, or review it in a different way, before continuing. This mimics what I do in the classroom. I tend to stop whatever video clip I have on, to explain and ask questions.
5) Continue annotations of the text, and consider it for lecture
For the past few terms, I’ve used Hypothes.is in a limited way, because it has remained clumsy in its interface despite wonderful efforts on the part of Jeremy Dean and the team to make it work well with Canvas. This term I’m testing Perusall instead in my 8-week Western Culture online class, and it’s working better. Its connection with Canvas is almost seamless, and I’m able to adapt an auto-grading feature so I can spend time reading and responding. It occurs to me this might be even more fun with lecture.
But not all students like doing it. I did have a student, on his mid-term self-assessment, tell me that “I don’t annotate to learn, and I don’t need to do that, so I didn’t”. There’s a misconception here that I’ve offered a self-learning tool rather than a required exercise that benefits all. It’s interesting that he saw this as qualitatively different from discussion. I don’t — to me annotation is just object-based discussion. I’m going to continue working with (and articulating) that idea.
6) Totally subjective grading
I have found rubrics to be a half-way measure. If I don’t use them, I get asked why they got the grade. If I do use them, I get the same question phrased differently. Either way, despite breaking down graded factors (source use, writing, formatting, thesis quality), showing them samples of good student work, and “liking” the best assignments (all posted sources and writing assignments are visible to the whole class), my students seem resistant to learning through example.
Today’s students also, more than ever, try to negotiate their grade at the end of the class, which has caused me to do bizarre things like make their final score invisible a week before the final exam, just so they don’t argue .17% or something. What I haven’t made clear here is that I’m a professional, and that I grade their work as such. My profs used letter grades, and a few comments. They assumed their marks would be to be treated with respect. I am considering heading that direction.
7) Honors contracts
Oh, contracts – the bain of my existence as an Honors instructor. We have the ability here to take a student in a regular class, and contract with them to do Honors for that class. I have never been able to make it work to my satisfaction. Students are unprepared for the independent nature of research. This is tied to the idea of undergrad research, above, but it goes beyond into what makes something Honors. We are only allowed 5 contracts per instructor per term – too many to do individually, and too few to do collectively, with them learning from each other. I am consideirng an invitation only system, inviting good students from this semester to join me for Honors in any course next semester. Plus, he idea about teaching databases is in my head now, so I might want to use that.
Well, that’s enough for now. Back to work!