This year I decided to adjust the weight I placed on lab reports. Last year it was graded out of 6 and this year I graded them out of 18. Both times I used the rubric grading in Moodle. Last year I scaled the grade down but this year I decided to just leave it at the full 18 total possible points. However I noticed that when I graded a sample lab report and gave it a grade of 6 out of 18 on the rubric it would show up as 6.67 for total score for that objective in the grade book. I still don’t understand why but it had to do with the grade setting for each lab activity. Since I wasn’t scaling things down I changed the grade to just 18. When I modified the scale so that it went from 0 – 18 and reset the grade setting to the lab scale things worked out again. The category total in the grade book also had to be set to use the scale.
- adjust the scale in the grade book settings
- adjust the category total to ensure it is using the scale
- make sure that each lab activity is using the scale
Tonight was the first class this semester. 16 registered students but only 14 showed up tonight. It was close, the class was canceled again earlier last week but a couple of last minute registrants saved the day.
Tonight I went over the course structure with the class and got pretty positive feedback. With such a small class size the school district is concerned about attrition. We need to retain as many students as possible to get funding for them. So the district administrator came to the class to emphasize that point and to check to see if there were any students worried about the format and wanting to drop out.
So far it seems like a good start.
Well the semester ended last week. In the last month most of the class attempted at least one lab although they did them reluctantly and only to get the grade, not to actually learn anything from the experience. Most of them inquired as to the “easiest” one to do before choosing and one student even submitted a report for a lab that she did not perform.
So was it a success? I’m not sure. I think I’ll assess each of the reasons I had for making these changes to my class:
- Make the class more fun
- Most students showed no interest in playing the game or doing any of the labs/investigations I developed. Most chose to use class time to watch the video lectures and solve practice problems. I think they see this as the easiest way to get a high grade. Or perhaps it is the familiar so that’s what they stuck with.
- Get students more involved in doing physics rather than just solving questions
- As I said above this didn’t really happen. Most ended up doing one lab but only as a last resort to get the grade. Hardly any chose to do any of the investigations. I specifically designed these as lab like activities that the students could do without having to write up a lab report.
- Reduce the attrition rate of students
- In the end only 12 of the original 21 students that enrolled in the course completed it. A few dropped out quite quickly (within 2 weeks). Others fell by the way as the semester wore on. In particular there was one student that complained to the district about the format of the course prior to dropping out.
- Get students more interested in learning rather than grade seeking
- This one might just be a fantasy. I don’t remember being so focused on grades when I was in high school but I guess times have changed. It was a lot easier to get in to post-secondary education back then. I’d hoped that the standards based grading would help stop some of the grade seeking behavior but it did not. Specifically with the labs, students almost refused to turn them in until I’d read it once and told them what to fix. My answer was that I’d give them feedback which they could use to make the next lab report they submitted better. They didn’t want to have to do a second report and instead seem to want me to write their report for them.
There were some positives to take away from the experience. The students that stuck it out did seem to like the fact that they were not punished for attempting standards but failing. However they may have just viewed this as a method of getting a higher grade.
In the future I will need to do a better job of encouraging students to do the labs and investigations. I think I will make the labs worth more of their final grade as this seems to be the only way to get them to attempt labs other than forcing them to do them (which is what I want to get away from).
I think I will also set aside time each class for tutorial sessions each with a fixed topic. This might appease those “just teach me” students.
The worst news is that there were only 4 students registered for next semester so the district has cancelled the class. I don’t know if the changes to the course have played a roll in the decline and I can take some comfort in knowing that four other class also had to be cancelled for the same reason so it seems that enrollment is down overall. So I guess I will have to wait until next September to try again.
On Monday night a student approached me and we had the following conversation:
Student: I have a request. Can you just teach us each night?
Me: Which learning objectives are you having problems with? We can sit down together and go over them one-on-one.
Student: No I mean just teach. Like a lecture.
Me: Well all the lectures are on the website. You can watch them anytime. If you don’t understand something we can discuss it right now.
Student: I know the lectures are there but can’t we just have a regular class?
Me: I want people to be able to go through the material at their own pace. You might be a whiz at projectile motion but another student may not. If I spend tonight teaching projectile motion you would be bored.
Student: But maybe they want you to teach as well.
Me: If they don’t understand something we can sit down one-on-one or in small groups and go over it.
At this point the student walked away. She is by far the brightest student in the class but it also the student who is most concerned with her grade. How much is this lab worth? Is this question worth more than this one? If I do this how much will my grade change?
I’m starting to feel like this experiment is failing. Why would this student prefer to sit in a lecture rather than discuss one-on-one the topics she is struggling with? No matter how many times I asked her which topics she wanted to discuss she just kept saying “I just want you to teach”.
I thought this method of teaching would result in a more interactive classroom with students learning from doing physics rather than listening to me talk about physics. Instead most of them spend each night watching the YouTube videos I’ve made and only a few have done any of the investigations or labs. If they aren’t going to be graded for doing it they won’t do it.
For next semester I plan on revamping the investigations. Rather than just posting them on Moodle as a page I will make them an activity. I will make them basic text entry activities or wiki entries so that they have to upload their observations. Each one can then be assigned to a standard and would count towards mastery of the standard.
I also plan to move towards a more refined grading scheme. Instead of each standard being scored out of three I will make it clear that their score for each standard will be based on the evidence they submit that they’ve mastered this objective:
||You have not attempted this objective
||You submitted only one piece of evidence or your submitted evidence displays lack of basic understanding of the objective
||Your multiple submissions but many still display major misunderstandings of the objective
||You’ve submitted some evidence of mastery but still make minor errors
||You’ve demonstrated on more than one occasion that you have mastered this objective
I will keep the same 29 objectives from this semester. The first objective, write a formal lab report, will be graded using a different rubric and will be scored out of 18. The other 28 objectives will use the rubric above and will have a maximum score of 4 for a total of 112. Add this to the 18 from the lab objective for a total of 130 for the course. This also makes the labs worth more (14%) of the overall percentage and will force students to take them more seriously.
One thing that I was worried about when giving the students the freedom to work through the class at their own pace was having the class turn into chaos with students all over the place and having lots of different activities going on at once and not being able to properly meet all the students needs. However it is the exact opposite. The class is so quiet. There are times when I am walking around in complete silence and I wonder if I’ve removed myself too much from things. The students are all on task, watching videos, working on quiz questions, or working on practice problems. I guess I would prefer if they did more of the labs. Quite a few did the uniform motion lab during the first week but since then no one has tried the accelerated motion lab or the projectile motion lab. Perhaps they’ve decided that these are too much work for too little gain. Maybe if I made the labs worth more next semester? Maybe I need to emphasize that doing the labs can demonstrate mastery of the objectives. Maybe I need to have more of the investigation type activities be more than just the instructions. If each one was an “online text” activity where the student had to enter their observations and this could count towards mastery of objectives. Maybe things will change if I just wait.
Last night I forgot how to access the lab report rubric I created. Moodle is a little odd in that it doesn’t show up when you click on the “grades” link. In case I forget again here’s how to find it:
- Turn editing on
- Click on ‘update’ for the lab activity
- Under ‘grades’ section grade should be set to Scale: Lab Reports and the grading method to Rubric
- On the left hand menu block scroll down to the Settings section
- Click on ‘Advanced Grading’
- You can now edit the rubric
I think I’ll have to go through and double check each of the lab activities to make sure they are set to use the rubric. I should also upload some sample labs from the test user and grade them to make sure the scale and rubric are working how I expect them to.
Last night was the first class. I set up in the lab and began creating accounts on the Moodle server for each student. The class list I was given had 14 students on it with their name and phone number. The username for each student was the first initial of their first name and their full last name. For the password I used their phone number. The Moodle server requires an email address to be entered and since I didn’t have this information I created placeholders (firstname.lastname@example.org) and asked the students to sign and update both their password and email address. The only problem was the four students that showed up but were not on my class list.
When the students started arriving I opened up Angry Birds and started playing. I could see a few odd looks and after playing a few levels I started explaining the concept for the class. The student reaction was what I expected….mostly confusion. Their biggest concern, not surprisingly, was how the grading would work. One girl in particular couldn’t get her head around the standards based grading scheme. There were a few other concerns, mostly about how they should know if they are progressing fast enough through the class.
I think once we get through the first test they will feel more at ease with the process. On Wednesday I plan on having a sample test to show them how they will be structured. I also plan on showing the students how to use Tracker.
I have been spending the past few days learning how to use grades in Moodle. The grading feature is quite complex and I have to say a little cumbersome to use. I think I am starting to get the hang of it however and think I know how to implement my standards based grading scheme. Although I may edit my list of standards based on what I have learned.
If you watch Paul’s video in my previous post or read the Multiplayer Classroom by Lee Sheldon you’ll see that they take a slightly different approach to grading. They stick to their gaming theme and have the student gain points and level up based on the number of points they’ve received. While I like this idea I think it will be too much like the regular grading scheme where students are just chasing a score and not really interested in learning. Maybe SBG will turn out to be the same but I hope that it will put more emphasis on learning and mastering a concept rather than their grade. That being said I still have to assign a grade for each student. So, how am I going to do that?
What I’ve done in Moodle is create a Category for each standard. Then individual grade items (assessment opportunities) for each category. Each category is then graded based on the highest score from the list of items. The overall grade is then calculated as the average of these scores. In the screen capture below you can see how this will look for the standard “Write a formal lab report based on experimental data”. There will be a number of opportunities for a student to submit a report for assessment (I’ve added the first three for testing purposes) and while the first submission won’t be perfect it should be treated as a learning opportunity. A later report will hopefully have a better grade and this will become the grade for that standard.
The same will hold true for tests. On each test the student can choose which standards they wish to attempt. So that by the fifth or sixth test they will have shown mastery of some standards but will still have the opportunity to attempt others that they have previously struggled with.
I also like the feedback feature and I see myself using it a lot. For each standard or item in Moodle you can add text feedback letting the student know what aspects they should focus on learning. Although the text is a little small to read on my screen (oddly this is not the case when viewed from the iPhone).
The other fantastic feature is the rubric which allows for much finer detail in the grading scheme. I’ve started a rubric for the lab reports in the screen capture below.
The student sees the rubric itself and the score assigned for each section is highlighted. As well there is a section for my written feedback below. There is still some issue in the example above as I have to figure out why this example results in a score of 60% instead of 50%. Still a lot to learn about how these features work!
To follow up on my last post these are the standards that I have come up with so far. I’ll revise them over the summer.
- Collect data and analyze data
- Express the uncertainty in a measurement
- Write a formal lab report based on experimental data
- Add and subtract two or more vectors
- Apply vector analysis to solve practical navigation problems (relative motion)
- Apply vector analysis to solve projectile motion problems
- Apply Newton’s laws of motion to solve 1-dimensional problems
- Apply Newton’s laws of motion to solve 2-dimensional problems
- Solve problems using the conditions for equilibrium
- Solve problems using the law of conservation of energy
- Apply the law of conservation of momentum to 1-dimensional problems
- Apply the law of conservation of momentum to 2-dimensional problems
- Apply the concept of impulse to solve problems
- Analyze situations involving an object travelling in uniform horizontal circular motion
- Analyze situations involving an object travelling in uniform vertical circular motion
- Analyze the gravitational attraction between two masses
- Analyze the energy (potential, kinetic and total) of a satellite in orbit
- Apply Coulomb’s law to a system of charged objects
- Analyze electric fields and their effects on charged objects
- Apply the concept of electric potential to a system of charged objects
- Apply the concept of electric potential energy to a system of charged objects
- Apply Ohm’s law and Kirchoff’s laws to direct current circuits
- Solve electric circuit problems taking into account the internal resistance of a battery
- Analyze the effect of a magnetic field on a moving electric charge
- Analyze the effect of a magnetic field on a current carrying wire
- Solve problems involving a solenoid
- Analyze the effect of a magnetic field on a moving conductor
- Apply Faraday’s law and Lenz’s law to situations involving electromagnetic induction
- Apply the concept of back emf to a DC motor
- Solve problems that deal with an ideal transformer
The students can get one of the following grades on each standard:
- 0 – Not attempted – each standard starts at this level
- 1 – Needs Improvement
- 2 – Adequate
- 3 – Master