Weiman article (Part 2) Setting up the experiment

Continued from Part 1.  The first time I have written several posts in a row for a while.  I’ve just run a session with some staff introducing the findings of the paper, with due regard for the 40 years of work (at least) that is is based on. All quotes below from the paper.

The lecturers: Instructor (A), a successful lecturer (who had won a teacher of the year award, and had good student evaluations) and a post-doc tutored by Weiman.
Both teachers gave it their best shot

Instructor A and L.D. had agreed to make this a learning competition

ASIDE: this in itself is an astounding opportunity: an instructor (A) with a history of good evaluations etc etc agreeing to this. I reckon his/her name and identity will emerge in due course hopefully NOT on a sleazy talk show, and we’ll learn some more about this project.

The course: traditionally, a physics course is divided into topics, with some building on each other.  The first part of the course was taught traditionally.  In the study the final topic (and the subject of the study) is a complete unit, Electro-magnetism.

L.D. and instructor A agreed beforehand what topics and learning objectives would be covered

The teaching: no formal lecturing at all in the experimental section. Instead:

The instructional approach used in the experimental section included elements promoted by CWSEI and its partner initiative at the University of Colorado: preclass reading assignments, preclass reading quizzes, in-class clicker questions with student-student discussion (CQ), small-group active learning tasks (GT), and targeted in-class instructor feedback (IF). Before each of the three 50-min classes, students were assigned a three- or four-page reading, and they completed a short true false online quiz on the reading

No new gadgets were used. Clickers has been used the whole course.
Pre-reading: the only change in the control section was the requirement to read the text in advance.

The populations (267, 271): using various statistical measures these were essentially identical eg same mean (+/- 1%) in mid term exam.

What is significant here

The value of pre-reading.  Other studies show this has an effect on learning.  We could say “this is obvious” but traditionally it has been hard to convince students of the value of actually doing it – and now we have ways to encourage this to be more of a regular habit.  The online testing with self marking helps.

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