December 18 Day 285: Finally Finished

After 5 days of oral assessment, including 19 interviews between 8 am and 3:30 pm today with hardly a moment to breathe, I can report that the final assessment interviews for Autumn 2020 are finished. With more than twice as many students as last spring, I feel as if I have entered a Zoom coma. But I still think it is worth the effort—especially while teaching remotely in the time of coronavirus.

To build experience and familiarity, I instituted four oral assessments throughout the quarter. The first was to build community and review prerequisite material for the course. The second was to practice communication and integration skills with the safety net of peer support. The third was to gain individual experience prior to the final, stressing the importance of generating ideas and talking through them, especially if they are “wrong.” And the fourth (and final) was to reflect on the course material, giving opportunities to connect and explore.

The Method

One week in advance, students were given complete instructions for the assessment including preparation instructions, the grading rubric, and 6 questions from which most of their assessment would be drawn.

Each student had 20 minutes to present three questions, the first question being their choice (20 points) , the second my choice (20 points), and the third was a straightforward mystery integration (10 points). (I generated 19 integration by substitution problems and used a question three times before moving to the next one on the list.)

The rubric has evolved throughout the quarter. I verbally modified it to include an error of omission of important concepts as a nontrivial calculus error.

Learning from my previous final exam interviews, I reduced the number of questions to prepare from 9 to 6 and the number of “passes” from 2 to 1.

The Questions

If you are curious.

Lessons Learned

  • The scaffolding throughout the quarter was successful. Students arrived early, they were prepared with clutter free work spaces, they knew what technology worked best for them, and they were ready to start on time if not before.
A test message with funny faces drawn on a portable whiteboard to test the cell-phone -as-document-camera worked properly before starting the assessment.
Several students used their cell phones as document cameras.
  • Students took citing sources seriously. I began each interview asking for what sources they used. Perhaps my favorite response was “I visited the Teaching and Learning Center for the first time and they were really helpful.” Others prepared attribution lists and uploaded them with their supporting materials. I was amused by one group of collaborators on a Discord server; they only knew each others’ login IDs, but not their real names. That seems about par for the course this quarter.
  • Twenty minutes was not quite enough time. Thirty would be too long. Twenty-five minutes would be perfect but that would really mess with my scheduling. I limited the number of back-to-back interviews before scheduling a 20 minute “break.” I needed to be more intentional with the placement of the breaks. No more than 4 interviews in a row. Period.
  • Errors of omission were most frequent in problem 1 (when the breadth of T/F question was limited) and problem 5 (where the students focused on the identification of the functions and neglected to connect their discussion to anything in the course’s content.)
  • Students either loved problem 6 or hated it. Those that explored a model connected to their interests often selected this problem as their starting choice. Others when asked to answer problem 6, used the “pass option.” The last day a class was really meant to be a workshop for people to identify models of interest but few took advantage of it.
  • There will always be students that dislike something new. I was amazed at how skeptical students were of standard online assessments and how appreciative they were of the oral interviews.
  • Best part: students were genuinely grateful for our time together.

Maybe someday, we will get to meet in person.

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.

2 thoughts on “December 18 Day 285: Finally Finished

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: