Collect teaching statements. We will come back to them at the end of the semester and reflect/see how things changed.
Remind them that this is something we intend to do every week and that everyone should come prepared to share about how their previous sections went.
Remind them what to think about for section recap:
(20 minutes) Open the floor up for general questions and sharing about how sections are going.
Some notes on multiple choice questions:
Despite their outward appearance, these questions are actually inherently nonobjective. Grading an essay exam is subjective to the personal feelings of the grader, compared to running a Scantron through a machine. Grading written problems falls somewhere between the two. This is only partially correct: “grading” a Scantron is completely objective, but the subjective aspect of multiple choice questions comes in the creation of the item (the question), the response (the correct answer), and the distractors (the incorrect choices). If everyone in the class was to write a question about the Doppler Effect, we would see a range of different questions and a range of ideas probed. That is subjective.
The ultimate goal of testing is to measure what the students actually understand, and the process of interpreting the meaning of a student's response to a MC test is a subjective one. There are three major issues behind writing these sort of questions:
Below are some guidelines for each of these items.
You are testing the students' understanding, not their reading ability. Long passages of text cause slow readers to skim and often miss details. Questions should not include strings of prepositions, parenthetical statements, or extended clarifications. Misinterpretation is impossible to completely predict, but concise, clear questions can do a lot to minimize the chance of students misreading the question or the response. For example,
You forget that the star Betelgeuse is a red giant and apply the method of magnitudes to determine its distance. The true distance to Betelgeuse is actually… (a) shorter than you calculated, (b) the same distance that you previously calculated, © farther than you calculated.
Is short, to the point, and clear. You might be tempted to elaborate on small points that are not the main conceptual item that is being tested, but care must be taken. For example,
You forget that the star Betelgeuse is a red giant (a very luminous star in the top right of the HR diagram with relatively low surface temperature) and apply the method of spectroscopic parallax—a comparison of the star's apparent magnitude, estimated from the HR diagram, and its absolute magnitude—to determine its distance from Earth, which can be considered the same as its distance to the Sun because the Earth-Sun distance is negligible given the scales involved. The true distance from Earth to Betelgeuse is actually…
In an attempt to be completely clear, the stem has become more difficult for most students to understand!
Over the years, students have learned that when novice faculty include choices such as “all of the above”, these are frequently the correct answer. It's easier as a test writer to write correct statements than to come up with plausible sounding incorrect statements. Also, students have also learned that the longer answers are usually the correct answers. You can avoid these situations by making sure your choices are all of similar length, contain a similar amount of scientific vocabulary, and ensure that an equal number of choices (A), (B), etc. are correct on the overall test.
The thermo nuclear reactions in a stellar core are the result of (A) fission, (B) fusion.
This tests what? Unfortunately, it tests word association. A student can get by without knowing what fusion means. Students learn to adopt a strategy of memorizing definitions and words, rather than understanding concepts. As another example,
The Monotillation of Traxoline (attributed to Judy Lanier) It is very important that you learn about traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of zionter. It is monotilled in Ceristanna. The Ceristannians gristerlate large amounts of fevon and then bracter it to quasel traxoline. Traxoline may well be one of our most lukized snezlaus in the future because of our zionter lescelidge.
Directions: Answer the following questions in complete sentences. Be sure to use your best handwriting. (1.) What is traxoline? (2.) Where is traxoline monotilled? (3.) How is traxoline quaselled? (4.) Why is it important to know about traxoline?
Notice how easy it is to get 100% without understanding a single thing about the passage! Pay attention to wording.
Less applicable for GSIs, but if particular questions are frequently missed, it is necessary to probe whether they are missed because of a lack of clarity, or because the question is testing difficult concepts. If the former, revise!
See below for some general bullet points on what to look out for.
Some notes on free response questions:
These notes are written with “Astro C10 quizzes” in mind, but the ideas are generally applicable.
General notes from previous years in convenient bullet-point form:
This is in particular relevant to the lab-based courses (Ay120, Python class) where most of the GSI interaction is in the form of office hours or emails to answer questions on assignments. These are also useful in TALC.
Group discussion - you've probably been doing this but making it more explicit: