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Monday, September 6, 2010

One down...

I survived the first week - 14 more to go! A brief summary of the week:

The good: I was reminded many times this week that the vast majority of my students truly are good kids who just want to do well and learn something. Sadly, I have a tendency to forget that because I usually hear a lot more from students who are having problems (and are trying to avoid responsibility). Many students had questions about their clickers, or how the class is going to work, but every single one was polite and they all approached me with an attitude of "am I understanding this right?" rather than "why are you making us do this?". And even though the air conditioning does not seem to be working correctly in any of the classrooms, students were awake and engaged enough to speak up. In other words, so far, so good...

The bad: I completely stressed myself out about the creation of the teams in my two sections of the data course. I had already planned to create the teams myself (rather than create the teams in class, as many TBLer's do), simply because with the size of the classes, doing it in class seemed physically really difficult. I sorted the students to get a mix of gender, class and laptop availability on each team (each team needed to have at least two people willing and able to bring a laptop to class, which I polled them about on the first day) and then I did go through to check that the non-native English speakers were also distributed equally across teams, and that there were no teams that might have cliques (e.g., there are a few members of the same fraternity in the class and two of them ended up on the same team so I moved one). I explained all that to the students but I still worry a bit about the lack of transparency. But the thing that really stressed me out was that one of the classes has relatively few women. There are 13 women in a class of 60 so with 10 teams of 6 students each, I could either spread the women out and have several teams with only one woman, or make some teams with no women at all. After a shout out for input from several female friends (I really love Facebook!), I decided to go ahead and spread the women out. We'll see how that goes...

The ugly: I'm happy to say that there wasn't anything truly ugly about the week (other than the threats made to some of my colleagues by a very disturbed former student). I was bracing for some serious issues with crashers but although there were more students trying to crash the class than I could possibly take, it wasn't as bad as I had expected. In the past, I have tried to avoid choosing among students by simply using a lottery to select who gets in, but given the state of things in the CSU, I decided that this time, I would give priority to econ majors (for whom the data course is required) and also favor those who had registration times after the class filled up (since they never even had the opportunity to enroll). I did get a few pleading emails which make me feel terrible, but I stuck to my guns.

One thing I realized is that I'm likely going to be somewhat stressed all semester simply because I don't like uncertainty and everything about this data class is uncertain. But the reaction from the students so far is encouraging...

1 comment:

  1. A colleague recommended I check out your blog after finding out that I am using TBL and clickers in my Economics classes (both for the first time this term!). I teach at a community college near Riverside. The TBL is working well, especially when I can create a good application exercise. I am not sure about the clickers yet. Great to know someone is in a similar boat as me.

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