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  1. #21
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    I had an accounting professor with a new-to-me approach to homework, and I'd love to hear opinions from the other professors and teachers here.

    He assigned homework to be done before the class that concept was taught and discussed. We had to read the text, attempt the assignment, and then were taught how to handle it correctly in class the day the assignment was due (to be submitted by the beginning of class). He counted the assignment if you made an honest effort at attempting the problem and turned it in on time; no score if you did not turn it in or very obviously did not make any effort.
    It seemed like a stressful (!!!) way to learn, but the students that tried had a good beginning understanding of the class lesson when we arrived, and going over the homework problems led to quite a few "aha!" moments and a very firm grasp of the lesson and an understanding of where and why we went wrong.

    It was a painful semester (I don't like making mistakes, and this was a way to guarantee quite a few of them!) but I did learn an amazing amount this way, and retained almost all of it.

    This professor was also very available to the students so extra explanations/help was easy to obtain for those that needed it, unlike the OP's professor and TA. This was a 300 level class.

    Is this "try before you are taught" process becoming popular (or did I just somehow miss it the first time around)?



  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by furlong47 View Post
    I agree that students should first try to work out an understanding on their own, but sometimes you can re-read the material 100 times and just not get it without additional explanation. This policy doesn't seem to account for different types of learning styles at all. Some can just read it, others need to be shown. Also, it isn't always just about WHAT the correct answer is, but HOW to achieve it and WHY it is correct. I do not think I would be happy with a professor offering up that policy. I would probably do fine in the class anyway, but other types of learners may not.

    Making "just getting to the right answer" and not making room for people of all learning styles is also a bad idea for a prof who cares about research and advancing his/her field. Some of the most brilliant innovators are folks who "get" the agreed-upon basics of their field and also look at those in an entirely original way. IMO, it's possible to teach those "unorthodox" folks and it is harder work, but it's a great investment.
    The armchair saddler
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  3. #23
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    MoonoverMississippi, that would make me absolutely bonkers in that kind of class- I do best when I first see the problem done. But not everybody learns like I do, and I I can understand why that strategy might work provided that students were given the resources to give it an actual college try. The same prof I asked about in the OP attempted a similar strategy on a recent assignment, but did not provide any kind of resources whatsoever. It involved a mathematical calculation I'd never seen before and after an hour of Googling to try to figure out how to even set up the damn equation I said F it and gave up.
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
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    Horse Isle 2: Legend of the Esrohs LifeCycle Breeding and competition MMORPG



  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by fordtraktor View Post
    We have a mandatory curve. The students hate it conceptually, and sometimes I don't enjoy making decisions based on it -- but the one time I do like it is when students complain about their grades. "there's a curve and your classmates performed better than you" is an easy answer.
    I kind of wish we did this. When subjective grading (essays etc) it's impossible to avoid comparing the excellent mastery answers to the generally understands it answers anyway. I'll use it when students argue that a quiz question was too hard: "Well, there were X 100's in this class, so apparently your classmates wouldn't think so."

    Quote Originally Posted by MoonoverMississippi View Post
    It was a painful semester (I don't like making mistakes, and this was a way to guarantee quite a few of them!) but I did learn an amazing amount this way, and retained almost all of it.
    I think that tells us all we need to know! I'm a grad student, and there's a LOT that I'm having to teach myself. This is consistent with past jobs I've had, where your boss gives you a project and some resources to figure it out, then it's up to you.
    Last edited by kateh; Feb. 23, 2013 at 11:40 PM. Reason: Damn you're/your!
    "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

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  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Renn/aissance View Post
    I recently started back for another degree and encountered a policy in one a 100-level class that seems a little... interesting.

    All homework assignments are graded on completion, not correctness. If you answered every question, you get full marks, even if you answered incorrectly. If you approach teaching staff (prof or TA) with a question, prof or TA will not give any answer that will confirm whether or not you are on the right track, but will say "discuss this with your group" or "reread chapter X." If you say "I have read chapter X, and I am uncertain about Y, can you please clarify whether my understanding that ___ is correct," you are told to reread chapter X. To be fair, this is not my personal experience, this is announced policy.

    The logic is that students who become accustomed to being told the correct answer do not develop the skills to acquire answers on their own, and that by grading homework on correctness, professors accustom students to being told the correct answer.

    I have thoughts on this from doing the whole college thing before and from grading as a TA; but I'll save them for the moment as I'm interested in others' thoughts on this. (Psst, mvp and Peggy, as I know you both teach at the collegiate level- I'd be really interested in your feelings on this style of grading.)

    I teach undergrads in small schools, but did my undergraduate work in a very large school. Here are my thoughts:

    1. I teach one particular subject, among others, that is quite tough-Microbiology. Most deliverables are scored on merit; quizzes, exams, presentations, etc. There are a few that are scored on completion -not because I have no time, but because for those deliverables the benefit for them is the process. And while I score in that case mostly for completion I do look at their work and I am yet to find someone has just written blahblahblah.

    2. The TA sounds like he was trying the Socratic approach that many schools encourage. You don't just give the answer, you ask leading questions and encourage the student to go looking for the answer. This way you hope to cultivate a natural curiosity and a sense of entitlement that stimulates independent research to answer questions. No, it's not because I don't know the answer.

    ETA: I don't curve. If you get an A in my class it's because you have 90% or more. The way I figure it, if you're in the ER at the mercies of a nurse doing dilution math you hope that her grades were based on merit and not on everybody getting slaughtered academically and her landing on the top of the pile.

    Paula
    Last edited by paulaedwina; Feb. 23, 2013 at 08:22 PM. Reason: To add that I don't curve.
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



  6. #26
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    I'm presently teaching an undergrad statistics course. I grade homework on both completeness and correctness, but if a student made a good faith try at accomplishing the task even if it came out incorrect, I award partial credit, note what part of the text will help out, and often review troublesome tasks in class with everyone. I view the teaching as described in the OP as rather sloppy, but that's just me.



  7. #27
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    Learning considered within a cultural context: Confucian and Socratic approaches.
    Tweed, Roger G.; Lehman, Darrin R.
    American Psychologist, Vol 57(2), Feb 2002, 89-99. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.57.2.89

    A Confiician-Socratic framework is used to analyze culture's influence on academic learning. Socrates, a Western exemplar, valued private and public questioning of widely accepted knowledge and expected students to evaluate others' beliefs and to generate and express their own hypotheses. Confucius, an Eastern exemplar, valued effortful, respectful, and pragmatic acquisition of essential knowledge as well as behavioral reform. Expressions of these approaches in modern postsecondary contexts are discussed, as are the effects these approaches may have for students who either fit or do not fit the cultural ideal. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by MoonoverMississippi View Post
    He assigned homework to be done before the class that concept was taught and discussed. We had to read the text, attempt the assignment, and then were taught how to handle it correctly in class the day the assignment was due (to be submitted by the beginning of class). He counted the assignment if you made an honest effort at attempting the problem and turned it in on time; no score if you did not turn it in or very obviously did not make any effort.
    It seemed like a stressful (!!!) way to learn, but the students that tried had a good beginning understanding of the class lesson when we arrived, and going over the homework problems led to quite a few "aha!" moments and a very firm grasp of the lesson and an understanding of where and why we went wrong.

    It was a painful semester (I don't like making mistakes, and this was a way to guarantee quite a few of them!) but I did learn an amazing amount this way, and retained almost all of it.

    This professor was also very available to the students so extra explanations/help was easy to obtain for those that needed it, unlike the OP's professor and TA. This was a 300 level class.

    Is this "try before you are taught" process becoming popular (or did I just somehow miss it the first time around)?
    That would bum me out, too. But as you say, there is a legitimate pedagogical purpose: The lecture is better when you aren't meeting the material for the very first time.

    It may be that prof found that doing it the other way-- explained first and practice in problem sets second-- got students to not get what they should from the lecture... and then suffer through problem sets they couldn't do anyway.

    To me, the "homework before the class meeting" is akin to reading the assigned stuff before the lecture, seminar or section meeting. You just.can't.get.dick.out.of.it (or your money's worth) if you didn't read first.
    The armchair saddler
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  9. #29
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    I do have some topics -like microbial metabolism -that I have them read before lecture. I am careful to explain that I don't require they understand what they've read, but they should read it ahead. The "Aha" moments come easier for them, they have a sense of orientation when we're up to our elbows in something complex so they panic less.

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by kateh View Post
    I kind of wish we did this. When subjective grading (essays etc) it's impossible to avoid comparing the excellent mastery answers to the generally understands it answers anyway. I'll use it when students argue that a quiz question was too hard: "Well, there were X 100's in this class, so apparently you're classmates wouldn't think so."
    IMO, curves really benefit students. Look, if I teach something and 300 people get it wrong, the most parsimonious answer is that I screwed up, not all those folks. You also need to grade essays on a curve for the same reason.

    All that having been said, I haven't been told to make sure that I deliver a certain percentage of Cs and Ds. To me, a C means the student phoned it in and made clearly no effort to try. A person getting a C from me probably knows it's coming.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat



  11. #31
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    I don't believe in curves, I think it's the path to perdition. Curves mean a C isn't a 70 it's an average for the class. So if everybody is doing badly it is not reflected. I agree that if everyone is doing poorly I need to figure out a way to optimize my delivery. I can see that with straight scores. As far as I am concerned a 90 is an A.

    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



  12. #32
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    The try it yourself method, socratic method, struggle through it idea of teaching is coming back around as the new thing now. Like everything else, I use it sometimes.

    I analogize learning to getting physically strong. If it's easy, you're not learning much. You need to struggle and stretch and feel a little sore to really make progress. Depending on what you are doing, figuring it out first for yourself puts you on a really high learning curve. It makes you struggle and go down wrong paths, but that is all part of learning. "I did not fail 10,000 times, I just found 10,000 ways that didn't work." --Ben Franklin

    I think this is one of the hardest concepts to get across when I teach. When students figure it out and learn that that scariness, unsteadiness, unsureness is the sign of good learning, THAT is when you have a student. From a journal earlier in the year, one of my kids wrote about being a little dizzy and unsure about what we were doing, but she knew that was a good thing because she was learning. Pretty cool for a 13 year old.

    A new thing to call it is grit. You HAVE to learn to fail and struggle to really succeed. http://www.nbcnews.com/video/rock-ce...68915#49168915

    It's like my pilates or any exercise class. I know I'm not doing myself much good if it's easy and I feel comfortable. If I'm groaning and getting sore and turning purple, I know I'm getting a lot fitter and lot faster.



  13. #33
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    The only homework I assign is online homework and I do it mainly you have to draw a certain type of chemical structures to answer the questions and more or less forces the students to learn to draw them. It also provides input when they are wrong. They do have to get stuff right to get credit, but I do partial credit. So, this semester I'm doing it as extra credit, one point per homework assignment that they get 90% or more correct. So they can get up to ten points of extra credit in a course with roughly 500 points total. Last semester I did more, shorter, one-point assignments and then went over them the next day.

    On lab reports the base for coming to lab, doing the experiment, and turning in something runs 30-40% for most labs. That's probably the closest to giving away points free than I get.

    It's relatively easy not to help the students at all with assignments: shut office door and hide. It's a bit harder to give the answers away. It's significantly harder and more time consuming to help them towards a solution without giving the answer away; however, this probably teaches them the most.

    I don't curve. I do adjust cut-offs if it seems appropriate: a bunch of students are clumped together at a cut-off, I feel that the class is better than their average, etc. For the most part students who are upset about getting the lower grade when they are close seem OK with it if you listen respectfully to them, acknowledge that this part of life isn't fair, and offer to write them a nice letter if they are denied admission to the transfer university of their choice. We do have departmental grading standards, but it isn't rigid.

    My old tests and keys are posted online and I post them for the current class as we go along. I figure that certain groups on colleges tend to have copies of old tests and it's only fair if everyone does.

    Any more questions?
    The Evil Chem Prof


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  14. #34
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    RE: I think this is one of the hardest concepts to get across when I teach. When students figure it out and learn that that scariness, unsteadiness, unsureness is the sign of good learning, THAT is when you have a student.

    Absolutely! There was an interesting article on NPR some time ago elucidating cultural differences in learning. One group emphasized that smarts was rewarded by accolades, and the other group emphasized that accolades came from hard work and practice. This says to me that people come to you with different expectations for instruction. You take the Socratic approach with the smarts=rewards group and you'll get alot more push back than with the hard work=rewards group.

    I've seen this in a few places -when teaching adults topics that might expose learning gaps, and when I had the opportunity to take dressage lessons from a BNT on a PSG schoolmaster. She explained that my frustration at getting this horse to respond to me with my blurred aids and questionable body balance is typical for the people who come to her, and for her herself when she made the the switch to dressage. And one of two things happen at that stage typically: either the rider (who had considered himself advanced enough for this training) walks way frustrated and convinced that the fault lay in the stars and and not in himself, or the rider buckles down, struggles, strains, cries, and prevails in the end.

    My micro students exemplify this. These are nursing school candidates. The class goes fast, the information is complex, and learning gaps like questionable math skills show up. One of two things happens then -I have attrition (a few students drop the class, usually frustrated at the time too), most students persevere. In all the years I've taught this class I've only failed one person -and she stopped turning in work. I've had students cry in frustration, but push through anyway and prevail. I get a few A grades, mostly B grades, a few C grades, and that one F.

    RE: It's significantly harder and more time consuming to help them towards a solution without giving the answer away; however, this probably teaches them the most.

    Hear hear. My most recent example is where I gave my first exam and a couple of students blew the multiple choice (these are not straightforward mc, each question requires a great deal of work and thinking). I could have left it there, but instead I showed them how to trouble shoot their answers to figure out their weaknesses (concept, too fast, misunderstood question, etc) so that they can address that before the next batch. This is one-on-one, going through the questions one at a time.

    RE: My old tests and keys are posted online and I post them for the current class as we go along. I figure that certain groups on colleges tend to have copies of old tests and it's only fair if everyone does.

    Yes. I do something similar too because, as I tell them, there are no new questions, just different ways of asking the same stuff. So I encourage them to drill and develop fluency, mental muscle memory, as it were.


    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).



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