December 3 Day 270: This Time It’s Personal

The past three days (and by that I mean mostly today), I have been conducting the third round of interviews for oral assessments in Calculus II. The first one occurred in the second week of the quarter in groups of 3-4. The second one occurred in the fifth week of the quarter in groups of 2-3. This time it’s week nine and the students are presenting solo. I’m only about half way done and tomorrow is going to be a marathon–starting at 8 am and ending at 6:15 pm with two back-to-back faculty meetings midday thrown in for good measure.

As part of the assessment, I ask each student to give me a tour of their immediate vicinity. The working surface needs to be free of clutter with only allowed notes, blank paper, and their computer/tablet/phone for communication and screensharing. Does this make me a hypocrite since my desk is currently a disaster area piled high with notes, books, scratch paper, 3D prints, and electronics? Oh well, it’s not going to get any better until this quarter is over. So why worry?

As with previous oral assessments, I asked students to complete a reflection about the process and their preparation. Preliminary results may be skewed since these students self-selected to go earlier rather than later in the process. But so far, results show that:

  • The balance between group and individual assessment is appropriate and appreciated. The early group work created partnerships that have mostly stayed true.
  • While worried about the dynamics of group assessments, students were less nervous presenting with their peers, especially since they could give and receive help to each other.
  • Students were more nervous presenting on their own. There was no way to hide lack of preparation.
  • Time permitting, I would ask students how they mentally psyched themselves to get started. There was a lot of positive self-talk. “You’ve got this,” “Believe in yourself,” “I’ve practiced a lot,” and “I’m ready.” I witnessed the calming power of saying those words out loud. I must remember to ask everyone this question regardless of time. I will do it more tomorrow. I promise.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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