Posted in Service Learning

Don’t Just Record

The last topic that I have yet to cover in my service learning is on “taking effective notes.” It really bothered me that one of the instructor who taught this study skill course would only demonstrate one method, the Cornell method, as if that was the only one out there to learn. This really bothered me, so I decided to surf the web a bit and search for other types of note-taking methods. Quite frankly, I never use this method myself after learning it from this instructor nearly ten years ago. This brings me to an important point that one type of strategy doesn’t fit all.

As a class, we will begin by discussing the importance of taking notes, and also the importance of what to do with them afterwards (review, review, review). In the YouTube video below by Thomas Frank, he states

You’re not trying to get every single detail from the lecture down to your paper, and in fact the point is not to transcribe the lecture at all. Rather, it’s to learn while you are sitting in class. As you take your notes, your goal is to create and original document that represents your mental image of the subject. It’s not to record verbatim what your professor said.

Next, I would play the video below in class to watch. Before I play the video, I would tell the student that they will need to take notes on this video. Their method on how to go about doing this will be their choice. However, it needs to be either hand-written or typed (no audio or video recording for this activity).

We will then discuss as a class the 5 different methods mentioned in this video for them to fill in missing information. We will also discuss if any had a preferred method prior to watching the video and/or if they have one they now preferred. I will go on to ask the students if there are other note-taking methods not mentioned here that they found effective and use on a regular basis.

As a try-out practice activity, I will have students choose one of the 5 methods to use for the following video on “Should You Take Notes on Paper or on a Computer?” This video even talks about storing hand-written notes to be stored onto Evernote for easy access!

Learning to take effective lecture notes and understanding the need for this study skill is helpful for students success in their college coursework. Sure, some students can retain simply from active listening, but we know that this isn’t the case for most. Also, taking notes isn’t just about recording what is said, students should be deliberate in their learning. Otherwise, this just becomes another meaningless and time-consuming task.

Posted in Math Inquiry

Controversies on Math Homework

In continuing on my last blog entry regarding math homework, I thought I was going to sit down and write my two cents about it and call it a day on blogging. Well, I was wrong. I just spent the last several hours browsing through the internet about math inquiry (focusing on math games, math digital applications, and math homework). Wow, what I found online about math homework were some great perspectives and issues. The following are some to read/browse through: “Do Students Really Need Practice Homework,” “Study says more math homework doesn’t increase student achievement,” and “Homework: A Math Dilemma and What To Do About It.”

I didn’t realize it, but I have found that this is quite a controversial topic. Deciding whether homework should be mandatory or optional and whether homework should be graded were the top two reoccurring issues. Growing up (including college years), doing math homework or any assigned homework was a common educational practice. So, I find it fascinating to learn about these current homework dilemmas.

My personal take on homework in college are: it should be strongly recommended and graded to count no more than 5% of total grade. Out of context, that probably didn’t make any sense. How could I put a grade on something not required. Well, this is how I would do it. I would suggest at most 10-20 math problems to do as homework, but I would only grade between 3-5 problems out of the total suggested. I will even tell the students which 3-5 would be graded. So, if they chose to do just those few problems for HW grade, then that is fine by me.

I want to be clear that I will not grade the 3-5 problems based on accuracy, but rather that students show their work. First, I believe that not grading for “correctness” removes the idea that one has to “copy” another to earn their undeserved HW grade. Second, I find that most students want to learn and put in the practice; so, I rather one tries and goes through the motion, even if it’s the wrong approach or attempt. Thus, just like an athlete who practices a drill or skill set, a student (most likely) isn’t going to intentionally do the work/ “practice” inaccurately.

For a daily math class in a college quarter system, I would provide the 10-20 suggested HW problems on every new topic section (this is often daily). However, I will not necessarily assign the 3-5 graded problems for each of those 10-20 suggested problems. The deadline for students to turn them in would be one day before the test on that section (this is approximately 2 weeks). The ideal is for students to turn them in the next day or two after assigned. However, I chose the day before test day because I recognize that students have other classes to balance into their schedule. Over the span of 2 weeks time also allows one to get help from classmates, teachers, and tutors from the Math Lab. More importantly, I want to provide feedback on the graded assignment; even with a day turnaround time, students can study/cram (not recommended) for next day’s test.

Overall, I believe that required, graded math homework provides structure to one’s learning. Just as it builds frustration as one doesn’t understand, it also builds confidence as one recognizes their learning. For those feeling frustrated, it should be a key indicator for them to seek help immediately. Students needs to recognize that they are not alone and that teachers want them to succeed in their math class!

Nevertheless, there is a lot to consider. I believe that “strongly suggesting” homework problems allows a college student to take responsibility for their own learning. Also, grading on it should’t be punitive to their overall grades. Homework needs to be purposeful to student’s learning, and immediate deadlines for homework submission may not be the most beneficial. Students math learning often progress at different pace, and allowing time to receive help and utilize free campus resources (including one-on-one tutoring) should be encouraged.

What are your take on this issue, math homework? Should it be mandatory? Should it be graded? Are my suggestions flawed (remember, I am NOT a teacher)? How can my take on homework be improved?

Posted in Service Learning

I need to give people credit?

Trying to get creative in teaching some sort of “study skill,” while incorporating technology, and meeting one the course objectives (“creating academically successful learning groups”) has been challenging! After perusing through the internet and wondering what I can do, I finally thought of “citations!”

Something that I’ve been mindful about is that I am not teaching a technology course; yet, I do want my students to be efficient in navigating the digital world for academic purposes. Thus, I came up with the assignment for students to practice citations in learning groups. I have found many of my students struggle with their “Works Cited”/”References” page. Just yesterday, I had someone ask me about formatting the second line when it wraps around.

So, this assignment will be for students to research online for a good source to help them complete an in class activity the next time we meet. I am hoping that someone will share “Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).” In either case, I will use this one as a reference.

The other part of their homework will be to bring a favorite book of theirs to share. I would prefer one where they found one that they can relate to either ethnically, culturally, or a theme relevant to them. For examples, I would share either “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” or “The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese-American from Number Two Son to Rock ‘n’Roll.”

Our in class activity  the next time we meet will be for them to properly cite the book in MLA format. Thus, students will need to have done their homework in researching a reference for how-to cite (books, articles, journals, newspaper, etc…). Additionally, I will assign students into groups for them to cite scholarly articles, which I will provide, using APA format. Group members will work together to pull their resources and help each other out on their individual book and scholarly journals citations. Each students will also take 2 minutes to orally share the book they’ve chosen and turn in their written citations before end of class.

Help! Love for any suggestions if can meet all 3 criteria: 1)  teach a “study skill” 2) incorporate technology use 3) involve creating an academically successful learning groups.

Below, I also created another informal discussion activity on Canvas to build collaboration and learning about each other. If you’re following along, then you’ll notice that I created Week 1 and jumped to Week 3, because I decided that I will have the class decide what questions/writing prompts they will like me to post on the even weeks.

Discussion 3