So I’m doing the blog project in one section of Calculus for Life Science I, and so far, the students seems to really be embracing it.
I had five students transfer into the class after they heard that there was going to be a huge project worth 50% of the course grade, and that exams were going to be worth a total of 35%. I spoke to each of them, and made sure they were aware that this didn’t mean the class would be easier, and they would probably have to do more work rather than less. They still joined our class. (We also had two students who transferred out, one because he didn’t have the prerequisite).
So I have a lovely class of 17 students, most of whom seem enthusiastic about the blogging project, and at least for now, none of whom are resisting the idea of this nontraditional math assessment.
The blog project will be graded three times, at week 5, week 10, and week 15. I’m calling these “checkpoints” for lack of a better name. For the first checkpoint, students have to schedule a meeting with me to go over their blog. They have to have six posts by then, and they’ll have until the Monday of week 6 to make changes to improve their grade. So next week, I’ve got a bunch of student meetings to look forward to.
The grading scheme for this class is:
Blog Project Checkpoint 1 10%
Blog Project Checkpoint 2 15%
Blog Project Checkpoint 3 25%
Daily Grade Average 15%
Exam Average 25%
Final Exam 10%
One of the things that surprised me with the first time I did the blog project was how much students objected to getting letter grades for the project. So numerical grades it is. Not that I feel obligated to give them everything they prefer, but when I’m asking them to come this far out of their comfort zone, I can keep the superficials familiar.
So we just finished the
third fourth week of school, and I haven’t written anything here yet.
The math department was in an especially desperate situation this semester– one week before the semester started, there was somehow a surge of unexpected new students, and 800 people were on a waiting list wanting to take college algebra. I really don’t understand how something like that happens, but then I don’t know much about how that sort of administrative thing works. The university was frantically trying to get us more classroom space, and the department was moving people around in an effort to create more College Algebra sections.
At the same time, for the first time since 2008, I had a class whose initial registration count was under 30. Way under. It was originally 14 students in one of my sections of Calculus for Life Science.
I cannot emphasize enough how bizarre that is. I haven’t had a class for the past two years that started with less than 40. Usually it’s 48, which is the fire-marshal limit for our classrooms. And since this happened at the same time that the department was scrambling to get more college algebra, I just kept my head down, and hoped that they wouldn’t notice me and kill my class.
And now I’ve got a class of 17, for the first time since I was a grad student teaching developmental math. And it’s glorious. It’s just… amazing. I’m doing the blog project in that class, and I can keep up with everything that everyone posts. When we do group activities, I can actually check in on each group.
I know I complain a lot about class sizes, but there’s been this little cynical voice in the back of my head saying that it’s probably not the class sizes, I’m just burning out on teaching. But no! It really is the class sizes. This class comes at the end of a very long day, and I have more energy for it than I do for my 10 AM precal that has 48 students in it.