Five graphs about the past term’s teaching

6 thoughts on “Five graphs about the past term’s teaching”

  1. Hi Raghu,
    Interesting post. Thanks. one thought I had is perhaps its not true that all students could do well in this course if only they tried. Recall Steve Hsu’s and Jim Schombert’s analysis of SAT correlation to physics ability. It doesn’t imply there is a born-in physics gene, but it does show that the SAT (unbeknown to its authors) tests primarily physics ability (there is no correlation of SAT to success in any other major).

    Physics is different.

    Your course is general science, so is supposed to be accessible to any student. But the truth is that the SAT correlation probably still resides for your course by its very nature – the ability to think logically and apply abstract concepts to real world problems.

    I don’t don’t think you should dumb down the course so low-SAT students can pass it. (Actually it would be great if you could acquire SAT scores for your students, but that’s probably not possible.) But you might have to face the fact that nothing you can do will remove that residual tail of Ds. (Although you might be able to decrease the Fs, as physics education research shows)

    1. Thanks for the comment. I strongly doubt this is the case for this course, both because of its content, and because I have talked quite a bit one-on-one with students (e.g. at office hours) who do struggle with math and logic, but who do quite well in the class if they put a reasonable amount of time into it, and who are (justifiably) proud of this. I don’t doubt that SAT scores are correlated w/ grades even in a 100-level class, as they are with everything, but it’s certainly not a sharp threshold that demarcates the passing and non-passing students. It would, I agree, be interesting to know how performance in my class correlates with other things, like SAT score, overall GPA, etc.

  2. Are the reading quizzes a minor component of the grade? If they appear ancillary, and don’t count for much, then those that do well might be the people that care enough (about grades or learning) to spend time on that assignment.

    1. Yes, that’s true — they’re only 5% of the total, and the correlation with overall grade probably points as much to conscientiousness of the students who do the reading regardless of points as to the value of the readings themselves. This term, I’m making reading quizzes 15% of the overall score, and having more of them. We’ll see what happens!

  3. Hi Raghu,

    Thanks for the insight. A thought on reading quizzes: Have you considered having students taking reading notes? A professor at my undergraduate school required this for physics courses, with the point being to ask meaningful questions about the text within the notes, as opposed to summarizing the text. While I struggled with these notes and initially did much of the latter, I found myself engaging with the text much more when I started asking questions the text did NOT answer. The added benefit of asking these questions was that the professor made a concerted effort to answer them either on the notes (we handed them in each week) or in class. Just a thought.

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