Issues that are on my mind today about the intro physics course I teach:
(1) Students don’t get enough individual feedback from me, partially because almost everything in class is done in groups, but their high stakes assessments are done individually. This is not good for students (especially those that are struggling). Plus, for me, it makes assessing and diagnosing individual students difficult. I need to get students doing more individual work for which they can get feedback, even if that’s not part of the model for the class.
(2) What little individual feedback they do get from me (mostly on lab reports) is for things that are borderline irrelevant / on the margins of importance. This makes me spend my time “grading” student ability to write their lap report in the correct format rather than “assessing” their understanding of disciplinary ideas and skills. That, and it gets students really focused on the wrong things—looking for ways to make sure they dont’ lose points in the future rather than learn.
(3) The overall grading system has so much “stuff” with so little substance– reading quizzes, project presentations, project reports, discussion quizzes, clicker participation, checked labs, and graded labs. There is nothing in those parts of the grading system that point them to what is important to learn. Rather, it seems to point them toward what bases are important to have covered to get a good grade or be positioned to get a good grade (if one performs well on tests). Students who struggle to understand (and do poorly on tests) can’t spend time trying to learn and understand because there are too many hula-hoops to jump through in order to guarantee enough fluff points that a good test grade will even matter.
(4) I have growing concerns about differences in performance outcomes among different populations I teach. Without going into details, there are certain combinations of race and gender are faring well and certain combinations that are faring not-so-well. This is probably typical of college physics, but it’s still weighs heavily on my mind.