Replacing Computer Exercises, with What?

I have been mulling over Student Feedback from my Physics Class:

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to have students do while I write feedback on their standards-based assessment quizzes.

Right now, I’m usually sending them back to work through the computer exercises. I don’t really like the computer exercises, and it was by far the most prevalent thing students said was not helping them to learn.

My options are:

  • Give them self-contained review activities or problems to do instead. Since it’s practice of previous material, it will be less likely they will need my assistance. Plus, we spend too little time in this course cycling back to concepts anyway.
  • I could ask them to use this time to make progress in their independent projects, which are going to start up soon.
  • I could have some hands-on exploration (or Phet Simulation) that I can connect to the sample problem I’m supposed to do that day. I would imagine keeping it a fairly free exploration, with each group having to contribute one thing they noticed or question that came to mind as they were exploring.
  • I could still (at times) choose to send them back to the computer files.

I’m leaning toward being flexible, giving myself options, and students options at times. I’m thinking, If I can come up with an exploration or find a simulation that will lead nicely into the sample problem, I’ll likely do that. If I can’t, I can give students the option to either discuss/work on their projects or they could choose go back to the computer stations, instead.

I like the idea of having students doing some review, and I think I’ll save this kind of thing for the right moment. Maybe when the sample problem is going to drum up some concept we haven’t talked about in a few weeks, or if there’s a particular standard that lots of students are struggling to show mastery with.

Anyway, what do people think? What’s the best use of my students’ time? How do I balanced that with not agonizing over developing or selecting new materials too much?

Other wise with the feedback, student seem pretty happy with things. Got some positive responses about the quizzes (and no negative responses). Got some positive responses about focusing on thinking, reasoning, and ideas over equation, and only one comment suggesting they wish I did more equation work. Got lots of positive responses about doing problems, working with others, and getting to hear how other students thinking and work problems, with only one comment about group work being a pain. Labs were a mixed response, with a fair amount of negative responses. The labs aren’t “cookbook” labs, because they don’t have steo-by-step instructions, but they are purely “confirmation labs”… The labs are never to discover something, they are never a result of student ideas or questions; they are never to develop a model… We always know the model a head of time, and seek to take data to confirm a value, and practice error propagation.


One thought on “Replacing Computer Exercises, with What?

Add yours

  1. If the students have some time and internet-connected computers, one possibility would be “find one source of information that relates to [question we are exploring] and evaluate its reasoning.”

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