Sunday, 29 November 2015

Stalking the Second Tier (UKPSF K3 V4)

I have seen a couple of references to the book: They're Not Dumb, They're Different: Stalking the Second Tier by Sheila Tobias

 This was a report about an interesting study, where they got some students who had dropped out from science courses to take say creative writing courses at the undergraduate level. The students kept a journal of their experiences. This was obviously a study done at an American University, because by the nature of specialism in the UK, the majority of the students in the English department would not know enough mathematics to deal with a physics course.

The first student found that he was solving a lot of problems. He didn't like the fact that he couldn't discuss physics with the teacher in the class. He felt that the exam was much easier than all the home works. He also noticed that the students didn't work together on problems. Also there was a lot of competition between the students about the grades they were given.

When I look at what the student wrote, I see that the problems started very simply, but they gradually built in complexity. I don't see anyway to teach any other way . If the problems are too complicated the students will not be able to do them. However, it is clear that we need to relate different parts of the course, so that the students see the "big picture." Also it would be good to develop some concept questions.

We also need to make clear the teaching method.

I am sure the student enjoyed discussing different aspects of novels, but what did he really benefit, if everyone has an opinion, which is equally valid.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A paper on cognitve load theory (UKPSF A4 K2 K3)

Volume 27, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 99–105
Current Research Topics in Cognitive Load Theory
Third International Cognitive Load Theory Conference

Contemporary cognitive load theory research: The good, the bad and the ugly

I started reading the above paper, available via the library of Plymouth University.

It contains a review and introduction to a number of papers on cognitive load theory. This is a field of cognition that is important for "worked examples".

I particularly surprised to see the phrase:

 It is an unfortunate reality that the field of cognition and learning continues to lack from evidenced based theory driven research
because the PGCAP community are always insisting that their ideas are "evidence led."

The start of the paper describes how many experts in "cognitive load" are looking at complicated problem solving situations, which mirror the real world. This is good for developing content for the employability of the students.

One paper had data on how much help should be given to the students. A fully worked example gives the students a lot of help, but the problem solving method gives very little help to the students.

There was a review of a study which attempted to teach a "schema" for knowldege. This was good for transference of problem solving.

There was a review of a paper on cognitive load with students working in groups
While modern education strongly advocates working in groups and collaborative learning environments, very little research actually moves beyond fuzzy “feel good” explanations as to how and why group learning can be beneficial.

The research suggests that it is better for students to work in groups when dealing with hard material, but individual work is better for simpler problems. In groups the student can spread the memory load accross the students.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Worked examples (finally some theory) (UKPSF: K1 K2 K3 K5)

A standard way to lecture to students on theoretical physics or mathematics is to write down basic theory. Next a number of worked examples are shown to the students. Outside the lecture, the students have to work homework problems, which are similar to the examples shown in the lectures.

When I used to teach calculus to first year student's at the University of Liverpool, I used to write up some basic examples of differentiation. Some of the students at the back of the classroom used to gasp in amazement. It wasn't clear how to help them use the worked examples. Also a common concern is that they just memorize the solutions methods, so only gain "surface" knowledge.

While preparing something else I found out about worked example effect.  A collection of studies seem to find that it is very efficient for the students to study worked examples rather than just do problem solving.

For many complicated topics, it would surely be too time consuming to do problem solving from first principles.

The theory behind this is cognitive load theory.  

I liked the idea of tbe faded example, where not all the steps in a calculation is included. This should be used for "experts", so perhaps start the course with fully worked examples, before moving to examples with "missing steps."

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Teaching Excellence Framework (UKPSF V4)

The government is proposing to create something called the Teaching  Excellence Framework (TEF) to try to improve the teaching in higher education.

  • See the article by Peter Scott in the Guardian for a negative view bout TEF
  • See the collection of links from the Times Higher education section.
The goverment is preparing a white paper about the TEF. The record of the speech given by Jo Johnson MP,   gives the goverment's current thinking about TEF. A couple of points from the speech
  • The overment wants to increase student numbers and widen participationof students from all classes.

  • Some surveys have shown showed that only around half of students felt their course had provided good value for money
  • Between 2006 and 2015, the graduate earnings premium decreased from around 55% higher to around 45% higher than the earnings of non-graduates, with graduates now earning on average £31k and non-graduates £22,000.
  • There has been a 300% increase in the percentage of firsts since the 1990s. So the goverment wants to include a fine tuning of the grade.Perhaps a GPA.
I was amused to see the phrase
But many full time students are still not being sufficiently stretched.
He complains that many students report low weekly hours on their course, but do they know how much independenet study they should be doing? In the mathematics degree, there is an implicuit assumption that students spend time woking through their lecture notes. 

I was at  fitrst excited to see the phrase
I am also pleased to see the piloting of new National Student Survey questions that measure the engagement of students with their course, staff and fellow students.
Someone from Poland told me that their student questionair's includec questions to know whether students were engaged in the course, before they can complain. However, I expect that it will be the lecturers fault if the students are not engaged in the course.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

UK skills framework (UKPSF K3,K6,V2,A1)

Brief notes and discussion 4th November.

Below are my thoughts on filling in parts of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF)

K3  How students learn
       Perhaps a good thing to look at is "troublesome knowledge" as featured by the key note speech at the teaching and learning conference at Plymouth University 2015.
I need to learn more about the way students learn mathematics.

K6 Quality assurance
      This is to really to ensure that a good degree is obtained. I need to look at the motivation for quality assurance in education.

V2  Professional values
      Be careful of examples  that are based  on UK TV. I am not sure that this note from the class makes too much sense.

A1 areas of activity
     Design and plan learning module
         Probably good to discuss the design of the quantum universe course as well as writing the module record for "Mathematical Programming."

Remember for the first module only two area need to be covered.