The Philosophy Behind the Course
One of the most challenging things college students have to do is adapt to the style, expectations, demands, and quirks of a new instructor in almost every class they take. This usually requires several weeks of guessing and detective work as you try to answer dozens of questions like these:
- "What is she really looking for in her exam questions?"
- "Is he going to nit-pick the grammar of my reports, or focus instead on the writing style?"
- "Will the exam questions focus on lots of smaller facts or big-picture concepts?"
In some cases it can take more than half a semester to "figure out" a new professor and in the meantime you haven't learned much, your grade has probably suffered, and your stress level has reached its maximum.
I have found that it is helpful for me to try and answer these questions in advance, so students know what to expect, what is important for their grade, what I expect from them in class, and what I expect them to learn. These issues all are best explained by taking some time to explain why I structured the class the way I did. As the semester progresses, I will share here and on my blog some of the insights that I believe will help students to tune in quickly to my teaching approach and expectations. Hopefully, this will make for a more rewarding semester for all of us.
First Lesson: How to use the course plan to your advantage
(August 20, 2014) I have provided access to a wide range of readings and learning materials. Unlike the typical approach of telling you to read everything then blindsiding you with questions on an exam, I have structured this class so you will know what you are looking for when you read, and you can find the readings that best help you meet that need.
The best way to take advantage of this is this plan: First: read through the assigned readings. Don't take notes, don't read too deeply. Read just well enought to pick up major points and know what information is available. Then, take the Equiz for the part of the class we are in. Jump right in - remember that you can take the quiz as many times as you want and we only keep your highest score. These equizzes are timed and the timing will be tight (5 minutes for 10 questions!). You have to work quickly which means you will need to understand the material well and develop second-nature skills to ace the equiz. Remember that the in-class quizzes will be drawn from the same question banks as the equizzes, but these question banks are LARGE.
Taking the equiz will tell you instantly what you will need to know. Make note of the questions you got wrong and what kind of knowledge you would need to get them right. If you got all the questions correct on the first pass, then you might be in great shape. Take the quiz a couple more times just to be sure. ((remember - I keep your highest score so you have nothing to lose)). If you can take the quiz repeatedly and get all the questions right, then stop. You already have mastered the relevant material.
If you are like most people, you will need to learn some new information or skills to ace the equiz. ((And you really need to be able to ace the equiz becasue - remember - the questions for the closed book in-class quizzes are drawn from the same question bank)). Armed with information about what you don't understand, go back to the assigned readings and read the relevant sections in more detail.
Return to the equiz and take it again. Still got a few questions wrong? Repeat the process. Is there some concept that you just can't seem to get right? Then these are the questions you should bring to class. The lecture on the material covered by the equiz will be immediately following the deadline for finishing the quiz so good timing, isn't it? The lecture will probably help you fill in the gaps, and if it doesn't - ask questions in class! Because we keep only your highest score on the equizzes, these are great study aids for the in-class quizzes. The in-class quizzes wil be 20 questions drawn from the question banks of the previous two equizzes. Again - timing will be tight: you will have 15 minutes to complete 20 questions.
The next class meeting will usually include in-class exercises designed to reinforce the most difficult concepts in the current class module. You can also bring up additional questions now. The in-class activities are designed to get you ready for the upcoming exams upcoming exams, which will require you to apply the knowledge and skills you just learned to new situations.
Rather than assessing what you know and what you can do (this is what quizzes are for), exams will assess what you can do with your skills and knowledge. The in-class activities and homework exercises are designed to help you prepare for the exams. Because the in-class assignments and homeworks are generally group activities, this is where you should take full advantage the power of your group to brainstorm and prepare for the exams. I will provide more information about what exams as their time in the semeser arrives.