Now that we are out of September, my students have enough work to do outside of class that I don’t need to assign any specific homework. Still, this view of in-class and out-of-class work is a huge paradigm shift for my students. Do they still have physics homework if there’s never anything “due” or that needs to be turned in the next day? When and how should they work on physics outside of class? Are they supposed to be working on physics outside of class at all (one of my students would almost certainly say no to that as he keeps leaving his binder in the classroom every day)?
I haven’t given them a lot of guidance yet about our whole cycle of assessment and learning. It is becoming clear that I need to talk more specifically with them as they start to think about (and ask for) extra tests. On a couple of recent extra test applications, I got comments like the following:
I didn’t do so well on these objectives last time because:
The question lacked clarity
Since the last assessment, I’ve done some practice on these skills. In addition to making corrections, I have also done these specific things and will bring this work to show you when I assess: I have reviewed my notes and I think a differently worded problem might help.
In both of these cases, the students misinterpreted one small aspect of the problem (which direction a block was being pushed), but they also had many mistakes that were not connected to the misinterpretation. They didn’t show calculations, or they didn’t make the forces balanced for an object at rest, or they didn’t use proper variables, etc. Their first reaction, though? It was a “bad question” because they didn’t answer the question being asked. The “bad question” idea makes it attractive to not analyze the mistakes that they did make, to not practice (after all, on a “good question” they may well get it right!), and to distance themselves from their own work.
I’ve seen this story play out before. The student who wants to just try again (and again and again and again) because they just know that they know it (despite the soon mountainous amount of evidence to the contrary). No breaks in between for practice. No analysis of why they were failing in each attempt. Eventually, they must be thinking, their luck will change and they will get a better question.
So it must be time to start giving them that guidance. Practice for physics, but never study. Time to start learning how to pick apart your errors. Always make corrections on your tests/quizzes. Time to start figuring out how to structure your own practice.
To that end, I’ve started working on a graphic that will help them think about their in-class/out-of-class work. I’m too wordy in my emails, and I know that they won’t get read carefully. A visual representation might help.
Here’s my first draft. I’m not sure whether I should put more information about how/when to practice, how/when to analyze mistakes, how/when to apply for an extra test, etc. I have some more writing of college letters to do, so I’ll get back to fixing up this image after that. But until then… comments? Suggestions?