Long ago (1988) I moved to Berkeley and started sending a monthly "newsletter" to my Boston friends. When I returned to Boston (1993), I continued the tradition for about five more years (or until I had kids). Looking back, I realize that I was actually blogging. Each newsletter contained anywhere from a few to several blog posts. Having been silent for the past decade or so, I've decided to resume these activities. Don't expect anything profound -- I tend to focus on what I find entertaining or amusing and perhaps sometimes informative. We shall see!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Half Flip

It's the end of week six -- almost half way through the semester and this week was a perfect way to celebrate that -- half flipped, half not flipped. On Tuesday I gave a fairly conventional lecture. My gut instinct is that the class is a tad more interactive than past years, but I can't attribute too much to that since it's also larger and we're in a different space, and both of those things might contribute.

Thursday was our annual midterm review. In the past I've simply gone over an exam in class or broken the class into fairly large groups and had them make up questions, present the questions, and then answer them. This time I let them submit questions as web work before class, promising that I would, in fact, use some good ones on the exam (having now written the exam, I have selected a few -- I did have a moral dilemma -- one student suggested a nice question, but answered it incorrectly -- I really didn't want to use a student's question and have that student get it wrong ...).

In class, I let them work at tables (groups of 3-5) on sets of problems and then we came together to talk about them as a class. Since many of my exam questions have multiple answers, it provided a good opportunity for both table-wide and class-wide discussion. I guess we'll see how it all works out next week.

I have noticed one other difference between this year and previous years. My staff seems to be thinking a lot more about teaching -- what we teach, how we teach it, etc. It's hard to attribute that to any one thing, because there are so many variables, but I do think that there is something about the setup that gives us more opportunity to think critically about what we're doing. Also, the fact that we have some flexibiity in how we present material means that we can be facile at adapting to the students, what's working and what's not. This week's discussion at staff meeting revolved around design -- how do we teach it? Why don't we teach more of it? What can we do now to do a better job? I have such respect for and appreciation of my teaching fellows who engage wholeheartedly in such discussions -- they are close enough to having learned the material that they remember what is hard and they are enough past it to know what skills matter. We're still in the midst of this discussion -- I'll let you know how it works out!

Next: Flipping and Testing (March 18, 2013)

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