Mid-Semester Reflection (Part 1)

We are a little over a month into the semester. Here are some thoughts about how things are going.

Teaching Procedures

One goal I set for myself in my physics class was to put more care and time into teaching procedures that students need to solve physics problems. In many respects, I feel like I’ve accomplished this, especially with respect to making sure students have opportunity and practice to learn how to find vector components. This second unit is so heavy on vectors with it being about projectile motion and forces. I still need to work on helping students to translate free-body diagrams into algebra. Students really struggle with this, and I need to think more carefully about how to sequence their contact with that. For the most part, students are OK finding components and summing them if they are all numbers, but once it’s algebra, it’s a real mess for many students.

Writing Standards and Quizzes

So far in physics class, it seems that I wrote much better standards and assessment quizzes for kinematics than I did for forces, and this I think has had a big impact on class.  I think I made the quizzes too hard with forces, but they also were not quite the right things that students needed to focus on. At the end of this semester, I’m going to have to go back and rethink through the standards and re-draft the initial assessments.

Valuing Lab Activities

I really struggle in my physics class to see value in the labs we do. They are not “cook-book” in the sense of students being given step-by-step procedures, but the labs seems to have no purpose. We just seem to measure things, graph them, put lines through it, and use the slope to tell us something we already knew. I need to find some value in them, even if its not what the author of the labs intended; because right now, I feel like it’s a huge downer in class. If I can’t see value in them, students certainly won’t.

Staying on top of Grading

I’m a little behind in grading and feedback this semester in a way that I wasn’t last semester. This is partially because of the standards-based assessment experiment, but it’s also because I’m teaching slightly more than last semester. I need to not let the assessment tornado of SBG take away from the timeliness of my more narrative feedback to students in my other classes. Although, I am (in general) better organized this semester than in the fall, I need a better system to stay on top of this.

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