Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Teaching methods

Undergraduate Students’ feedback for current semester method

Posted by: adonis49 on: November 2, 2008

Article #24, (written on June 11, 2005. Teaching at LAU Byblos university, Lebanon)

After many unsuccessful attempts to generate students’ feedback on my teaching methods and how this course might affect their perspective and behavior in approaching the remaining core courses, before graduation and in their career I decided to include two questions in the final exam that I expected would shed some insight.

The required question, which I told class two weeks ahead of the final exam that it will be part of the exam, directed the students to focus first on the diligent A and B students and then to target the C and D students in their teaching methods in case they might have to teach a course in Human Factors in engineering.

The third part was to restructure the course materials and which chapters should have to be developed further. 

Now, any logical person would expect the students to have prepared detailed answers to these questions since it is an open book and open notes exam, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any shred of evidence that any student did prepare a written answer. 

You would also expect students to be lenient in teaching this course but their reaction was even harsher.

Students feedbacks required that drop quizzes be delivered on a weekly basis after students hand in a chapter summary, that case studies be debated in class, a few lab workshops and many more assignments. 

A student suggested attaching a CD copy of the course material so that they would not have to carry books.

They suggested that summarizing chapters as assignments might force students to read, a suggestion that I did try in a previous semester but was discouraged because the endeavor ended up with students heavily copying from one another, and I having to carry home heavy loads and wasting more time flipping through useless pages.

I think that frequent and consistent drop quizzes are an excellent tool although it will cost me dear time for grading and from teaching time.

Actually, I didn’t expect even the most diligent students to read the whole course materials. 

I provided hints and suggestions on the best way to assimilate the material that would help them navigate through the content of the course. 

I encouraged them to browse through the whole course contents and focus on the graphs, tables and figures and try to comprehend the subject matters by analyzing and using them as facts in their analyses.

May be you would have a better assessment of the students’ harsh requirements, if given the opportunity to teaching, after I expose the load they shouldered throughout the semester.

Besides the mid-term and final exams, each student had to submit two assignments, two lengthy lab projects; three extensive take home exams that covered most of the chapters, three quizzes for 45 minutes each, two presentations to class of graphs, tables and figures, reading revised articles that I assigned them and a take home exam on a research paper concerning hand tool design. 

Not a single student was exposed to a research paper before, and it was a pretty tough awakening for the students planning for higher education. (Actually, the administration promised to sign in for peered-reviewed research articles from the Human Factors society, but never delivered)

I think that the students lacked an appreciation of the time allocated to managing a class that prohibits many well meaning teaching plans. 

In many instances, I had to read in class the assignments and take home exams questions and provide directions because I noticed that the students tended to dig these assignments up from their folders before a long lapse of time. 

The time allocated for students’ presentation takes up more than a third of the teaching hour and fielding questions takes the best of the second third 

There are no lab credit hours for this course and still students believe that they can set aside free hours for doing lab projects necessary for assimilating this course.

The alternatives restructuring of the course materials did not differ much from mine.

The optional question for bonus points asked the students to select 3 topics of interest to them, provide catchy titles and explain in two paragraphs for each topic how it might apply and improve their careers. 

Although I have assigned to the students articles that I wrote as an introduction to the course materials only one student offered complete sentence titles; the rest just named the topics. 

It appears that their preferred topics were: risk and errors, designing interfaces, work environmental factors that might affect performance, human-computer interface and hand tool design. 

A couple students interested in medical technology engineering wanted more emphasis on the biology aspects of the body structure. 

Only one student mentioned the cognitive preference for this single course.

Many students signed petitions to re-include the elective course of “risk assessment and occupational safety and health” for the fall semester but the administration refused to consider these petitions two years in a row.

Why?  I still did not receive any feedback either written or verbal. 

It appears that the meaning of asking students to deliver petitions for any demand is less a matter for taking their cases seriously but to erect roadblocks and present a procedural façade to secure grants as a professional institution.

Actually, students’ apathy toward the effectiveness of the student council is strikingly telling.

I had to harangue my class to grab and snatch their rights by persistent pressure on the administration for the demands in their petitions.

“A few anecdotes of my teaching methods” 

(Article #17 in the category of Human Factors, written on April 13, 2005)

My composite class of all engineering disciplines takes my course in Human Factors in engineering for different reasons. It is a required course to the industrial engineers, but optional to all the others.

You assume that most university students have discussed with the previous students about the contents, difficulty, novelty and time consuming constraints of this course.

Apparently, the responses generated in class to my query whether the students have any idea about this course prove that they have no knowledge whatsoever of Human Factors discipline, which is to design products and services with health, safety, and ease of use of consumers in mind.

I prompt them by mentioning the term ergonomics, and lo and behold, they have read this term somewhere in ads on ergonomically designed chairs and keyboards.

Another surprise is that when it comes to purchasing course materials and answering old questions in assignments, many succeed in locating previous students who took the course.

I have tried many teaching styles, revised several times the contents and arrangements of the course chapters, and experimented with various methods to encourage the students into reading the course materials on their own volition.

I varied the number of quizzes, exams, assignments and lab projects, tried to encourage them to read research articles, investigated new presentation techniques, gave them hints on how best to read and assimilate the materials, emphasized on thinking like engineers and not memorize information, and I assigned students to read to the class:  I received basically the same observations, no matter how I change the course.

1.Engineering students will read only under duress,

2. Will barely take notes even if bonus points are at stakes,

3. Will start an assignment a couple of days before due date, even if the assignment was handed out several weeks prior to due date,

4. Will remember to ask for clarifications only on due date,

5. Will copy and cheat unabashedly.

Engineering students refuse to carry to class any course material, unless the exam is an open book.

Many don’t bring any paper or pen to take notes, many refuse to redo their assignments for a couple extra points or for closure sake, and most of the redone works show no improvement.

Students can use word processors or any computer applications for their assignments, but the end product has to be hand written, including tables, charts and figures. Guess why I figured out this constraints?

It turned out that my guess was correct: most of the time I can manage to read physicians’ prescriptions better than their handwriting assignment.

There was a time when engineers were trained to submit neat drawings, as engineers should be trained to do, but this time is long gone.

Another advantage of submitting hand written work is that students will actually read what they are writing and rely less on copied CD’s and try their hands on being neat, using rulers, compasses and the long lost engineering working components.

I invented several ways to brute force students to read at least parts of the course materials.

In addition to mid-term and final exams, they have to answer dozens of questions for their mid-term and final take homes exams.

I assign graphs, tables and figures to students to hand write, copy on transparent sheets and present to class with written explanation attached.

All assignments are submitted on composition booklets.

I encourage them to take notes by asking them questions on materials not covered in the course materials, and giving bonuses to anyone who remember to provide a copy of his notes on final day.

I have come to realize that any zest I invest in teaching is for just a couple of students each semesters.

Yes, there is this couple of students who demonstrate this want to learn: it is always refreshing to feel that a few students are serious about the money invested by their parents for them to learn at universities.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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