Self reflection

OK Andrew, what worked and what didn’t work this year?


  • Classroom discipline MUCH better. There was still some complaints about distracting whispering, but nothing like the last few years and none of the shameful s*** that’s happened before. None of it got me worked up, unlike previous years.  I think the difference this year was that I talked more at the start of semester about it, pitched it to the students as a deal (the deal works like this, you do x and not y and I will do a and not b). I also took a very light touch approach in class when it happened, politely asking people not to. That seemed to go better than trying to shame them into silence (and way better than getting pissed). I think walking up and down the aisles really helps too.
  • Plagiarism. Just one case this year. Broadly speaking, the countermeasures worked. Unlike the College Academic Integrity Committee, which continues to under perform in this important and delicate arena.
  • I did a lot more work with the students on soft skills. That felt good. I hope it set at least some of them up for a better College experience. No way to know of course, so like a good physician, I’ll roll with confirmation bias and assume I did good.
  • Again, no problems with the laptop ban, and progress on the phone issue.
  • Explaining to students more about why we are doing things was good.
  • Attendance algorithm worked much the same as last year. I think stick with that.

Room for improvement:

  • More active learning. Things like this (interestingly, that video is pitched as being about clickers, but in fact they are pretty irrelevant to that sort of teaching practice).
  • More debates. For example, is it worth testing homeopathic vaccines?
  • More challenge questions to stoke curiosity. Mini research projects?
  • Build a capstone class around John Oliver’s great show?
  • The students continue to find their blog grades disappointing, by and larger, but at the same time by and large don’t produce excellent work. Need to think more about why that is. Show more examples of best practice? Or am I fighting the Facebook/Twitter drivel. Perhaps students don’t read much good writing these days?
  • Talk more about cognitive failings of humans. Use the analogy with optical illusions more. Our eyes/brains can deceive us. Similarly we have cognitive defects too. Monty Hall good for this. Bring this out even more e.g. with the Linda problem. That scientists can use science to both study and (somewhat) over come these problems, even though everyone has them.
  • Talk more about note-taking earlier on. Do some examples — it worked really well this year when I reviewed (all across the blackboard) what Mike Mann and Doug Cavener had said, partly because I (hopefully) reinforced and clarified their messages and partly because the students could see what I mean about reviewing after class what had gone on.
  • The blog software. Groan.
  • Is there some way to motivate students to solve the procrastination problem? Do a class on procrastination science? That might be interesting to think about, especially since what I read does not make too much sense. It’s like a huge human blinder.

The big unknowns remain big unknowns. (1) Am I pushing the students hard enough or too hard? (2) What impact are any of my efforts having? I can imagine ways to investigate #2, though not easily. I still can’t even imagine how to investigate #1. That’s just not my problem. It’s a College universal. If I didn’t find my science so interesting, I might turn my scholarship activities to ruminating on that. I’ve made no progress on it since I first started pondering it in 2011. I haven’t seen or heard on anyone else even wondering about it, even though it goes to the heart of this huge, expensive industry we call Higher Education. Most industries reflect vigorously on what they are doing (or they are forced to by outsiders); why don’t we?

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