Astronomy: Final Reflection

The final exam for the Astronomy class was this past Monday and I have gotten my final grades submitted and approved. There are a few loose ends to wrap up (a few students need to write the make-up exam), but I’m essentially done!

Throughout the semester I’ve been jotting some thoughts about what I’ve done and what I might do different if I teach this course again:

Things I implemented or tried:

  • The two biggest things were adding a participation component and an assignment. Each of these were worth 5%.
    • The participation mark was done on a points system. The students could choose from a variety of activities (observatory visits, attending public lectures/talks, in-class mini-labs, discussion forum posts, in-class group work, etc.), with each activity being worth 1-2 points. To get the full 5%, students had to collect 15 points throughout the semester.
    • In the assignment, the students had to take 5 photos of things that reminded them of the content of the course. With each photo they submitted, they had to include a description of the photo and how they thought it related to the course. This was marked by the TAs with a rubric that was given to the students.
  • I use Kahoot! to review every week, and I got a lot of positive feedback about this one!
  • I tried to do large jigsaw activities, but this did not go over well (though I did have a few students tell me they appreciated I was trying different/new things)
  • I used Learning Catalytics for exam reviews. I did have some technical difficulties with it, but I would like to try it again.
  • I created Google Doc reviews for the exams so students could ask questions.
  • I used some mini-labs for participation and this seem to go over well.
  • I used virtual clickers in lectures to review as we went along

Here are some things I’d like to change for next time:

  • The textbook needs to be updated to the newest version (which came out this year). This field changed rapidly and the version we used is getting out-of-date
  • I’d like to include short reviews/summaries DURING my lecture before we switch topics. I have no idea why I didn’t do this but I think it’d be very helpful.
  • The questions on the weekly quizzes need to be updated for several reasons:
    • Most of them, along with answers, can easily be found online
    • Some are out-of-date
    • They’re generally at the “recall” learning/thinking level, and I’d like to make more at higher order thinking levels
  • Participation:
    • Students will keep track of their own participation and self-report with a reflection at the end of term (keeping track of 350 students was INSANE!)
    • I’d like to “gamify” this more
    • Make it mandatory to visit the observatory at least once, ’cause it’s an awesome experience!
    • Forums will only be open for 1 week each
  • Assignment
    • I’d like to have students propose formats of an assignment similar to the one we did this semester and then they can choose from 3-4 choices.
  • Exams
    • Create a question bank
    • expand the questions to include diagrams, tables, graphs, etc.
    • Add more higher level learning questions
    • Offer practice exams (though the Learning Catalytics reviews were similar to this idea)
  • Grading…oh the grading…there were MANY issues that came up, so here are somethings I hope will help (and these would be good for ANY class):
    • Students must wait 24 hours before asking about an assessment grade AND have solid reasons for me/TA to re-evaluate
    • Marks for each assessment will be considered final after 2 weeks from when the mark was posted
    • Documentation from an academic counsellor is needed for any misses assessment
    • Allow late submissions for some assessments, but dock certain percentage per date (10%?)
    • Perhaps make quizzes worth less overall and increase the worth of participation and/or assignment

I had my students reflect on their learning and I was SO impressed by their posts. If you want to read a couple, check them out on my teaching portfolio webpage.

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