I’ve set lecture planning to one side for a week or so while I tackle the growing mound of exam style questions that need producing. That’s pretty hard going really and should inspire some good reflections on what has been taught in a course and, with a pinch of honesty, some reflections on how well it has been taught or how well the students seem to have engaged with the material.
I hate writing exam questions before I have taught a given course. It isn’t present in my head in the same way before I teach it. I haven’t refreshed my memory of the lecture materials, the supporting activities and the like. If it is a new prep, it is almost excruciatingly difficult to assess first time around without some sense of how the material goes across. There is some comfort in exam papers with choice of questions and I’m glad we have them in 2nd and 3rd year.
Our external examiners require us to mark questions as seen or unseen, recall or problem solving, familiar or unfamiliar problem type. That creates a hierarchy of questions. Seen, recall is the most basic question and may be a straightforward way of indicating if a student meets basic ILOs. Those questions tend to start with terms like ‘state’, ‘define’ or perhaps ‘describe’ or ‘draw’. Recall can progress though to something akin to problem solving when ‘compare’ or ‘contrast are brought in – that usually involves additional synthesis of the information over simply regurgitating it on the page. The word ‘critically’ before compare or contrast ups the ante even more, but that may still be a previously seen critique.
Unseen, unfamiliar problem solving is the hardest and should allow the student to apply their subject knowledge and problem solving experiences both in the topic and more broadly to tackle something novel to them. It’s usually particularly difficult to set questions of this type and they really set your mind going with nagging doubts about whether the question is do-able. Again, choice in a paper does help a little, but that may provide a convenient escape route for students wishing to avoid challenging questions if there are more strategically sensible options available. I don’t especially blame students for making strategic decisions when working towards an exam, but it would be better if all questions were equally achievable and picking questions was left to whim not calculation of which bit they would do best on. Of course there are areas of chemistry that some will always feel more confident in.
It is incredibly difficult to set one 25 mark question that includes all of this, that includes some progression from recall through to a decent problem solving part. I’m reminded of crossword puzzles whenever I have to set exam papers – I want a few easy clues to hook me into the puzzle and want to continue. Then I need a few clues that take some effort to solve but increase my general sense of satisfaction with the puzzle. Finally, there will always be a couple of clues that really challenge me and make me think hard. If I get those, I usually feel pretty damn smart. If I don’t (which happens more frequently), I feel pretty frustrated. The important thing is that I don’t regard my frustration as an inability to do crosswords, I just couldn’t do those clues. And it is equally important for students to move away from thinking that they cannot ‘do’ exams if they obtain lower marks.It helps to see them as opportunities to show off progress and development as chemists.
Whether exams are appropriate are not…well, that’s another post entirely!
With all the discussion of the relative merits or demerits of powerpoint, I thought it might be useful to take a step back and consider broadly what I’m doing in each of my classes and why.
All lectures delivered using a tablet laptop, annotated slides and lecture recordings provided to those students who attend after the session (except 3rd year).
First Year Spectroscopy (9 hours, 2013) & First Year Transition Metal Chemistry (9 hours, 2014)
Mainly powerpoint based lectures with worked examples, self-tests and references to additional reading and problems in recommended texts. Some screencast pre-lectures or on specific concepts. Also supported by problem sheets and problem classes. TM chemistry includes model building workshop for isomers. (generally 20 – 24 slides per hour)
Second Year Multinuclear NMR (4 hours, 2013)
Powerpoint, but low content (approx 20 slides per hour session), mainly taught through examples and problems. Integrated lecture-problem sessions as no discrete problem class for this content. Generally 16 – 20 slides (including title slide and ILOs/textbook per session)
Second Year Catalysis (4 hours, 2013, not taught yet in 2014)
Tablet, talk and technology. Students provided with a study guide containing complex images, tasks to do (e.g. writing out definitions of terms, simple problems) as the lectures progress. Powerpoint used to provide blank slides for in-lecture annotation in ‘chalk and talk’ style. Some powerpoints with complex images for discussion and annotation. Exam style problems in study guide, integrated lecture-problem sessions as no discrete problem classes for content. [increasing to 5 hours in 2014 with problem class]. Interestingly when preparing this course I hand wrote my notes for writing out in the lecture. I consistently covered 2/3 of the intended content per session due to the slow down in delivery caused by writing it all out by hand. This fits with the notion that powerpoint leads to too much content. Consequently I removed quite a bit of content from the 1st year TM powerpoints before delivery this year and slowed it down quite a bit.
Third Year Designer Polymers (6 hours, 2014 in progress).
2 hours of standard lecture to cover ‘key concepts required’, 3 hours of flipped content with students reading assigned papers. Lists of questions for each paper are provided then used for discussion in class. 1 hour of problem class where students bring answers to exam style questions and they are discussed.
Omitted: Third Year Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms (6 hours, 5 lectures, 1 problem class; run for first time in 2013, work in progress).
Omitted: Second Year Sustainable Chemistry (18 hours, varied content, run for first time in 2013/14, work in progress).
Omitted: Second Year Bioinorganic Chemistry (3 hours, run for first time in 2014, not yet delivered)
As a general trend, the number of slides seems to decrease from 1st year to 3rd year. That reflects the increasing complexity of the information per slide perhaps? Or perhaps the need to write more on the slides for the first years to provide a better set of notes. An obvious question is why not do the ‘tablet and talk’ catalysis style lectures more. The obvious answer is once you’ve invested the time into creating a set of powerpoints, why revert to hand written? And powerpoint is a greater investment of time than hand written chalk and talk style, but it is more readily edited and modified – hand written notes get fairly messy.
I’m not yet sure where this exercise leaves me, other than a reasonable account of what I’ve done with my time all academic year so far (a lot of new preps…). There are a few things that strike me that I hadn’t noticed before but I need to think more before commenting.
It’s Friday evening and my patience is running short, so I’ll try to keep it brief.
Powerpoint and the like are tools, and the use to which tools are put is important in determining their worth in teaching. Tools can be abused, used to achieve great results but mostly are harnessed to achieve something around-about average. Techniques are also liable to achieve a wide range of outcomes depending on who is using them. I see a lot of people dismissing particular techniques without any consideration, things like using personal voting systems (this is both tool and technique but half decent use requires changing a lecture to an extent greater than just switching from powerpoint to keynote, hence inclusion here), flipping lectures, or pre-lectures. I’ve got no problem with a considered dismissal of a technique. I know that personal voting systems don’t fit with my general way of teaching – I find it hard enough to get all the bits and pieces* I need for a class to the right room at the right time without worrying about a couple of bags of clickers. I also find them difficult in 1 hour sessions because of the hassle of counting them out and in, so I choose not to use them. I’ve dabbled with pre-lectures and am still somewhat ambivalent about them. And it turns out, after a rather interesting twitter conversation with Simon Lancaster, that I do in fact flip four lectures. Simon was seeking examples of the abuse of techniques such as flipping, I asked for a good definition and it struck me that I do so. For some daft reason I’d had it in my head that I could only flip with a lecture recording. And a good question for lecture flipping types: how many times did you teach the class in a ‘conventional’ manner before flipping? I have a theory that you need to have outstanding knowledge of the topic and the level of delivery to really exploit flipping to an appropriate standard, and I think one way to gain that knowledge is by delivering it several times by other means.
Generally I try things on a small scale before launching head on in. A pilot study before committing significant resources to a task, always a good plan. But what about the other side of the equation: people who launch head long into the ‘latest big thing’ without real thought or consideration? I see/read/hear lots of things written by people who genuinely seem to believe that by calling their teaching ‘latest big technique’, that suddenly it will all fall into place and just happen. It just isn’t the case. To make any new technique work in teaching, you have to work extremely hard and be extremely able to deal with emerging issues. While it is nice to aspire to better teaching, jumping on the latest bandwagon is not the way to achieve this. If you’re not a reflective, thoughtful and responsive teacher before you do big technique, it will not work because you don’t have the analytical faculty to trouble shoot and refine it. There are times when I am simply too busy to give a course the appropriate level of reflection and thought that a new technique would warrant and I leave it as a conventional course. I am fearful that to make changes half heartedly and without sufficient time, I would do more harm to the learning experience of my students than good. I will settle for good enough until such time as I find the time to make the course really sing.
Generally I aspire to use exciting and interesting techniques. I am limited by the quantity of time I can spend preparing my courses, and coming from an institution where teaching loads are higher than in other institutions, that’s a significant limiting factor**. What I will never aspire to, and what I would actively discourage, is for teachers at University to jump on the latest technique without good consideration of the appropriate issues. What works for one lecturer will not work for another one. I don’t understand people who just reuse someone else’s lecture notes, I don’t understand why people would just reuse a technique without real thought.
*Teaching bits and pieces: register, pen, my notes, memory key, tablet PC with power lead, microphone and dictaphone, spare batteries, board markers, tissues, mug of tea…
**about 50 lectures a year, plus workshops and labs…spectroscopy, multinuclear NMR, transition metal chemistry, homogeneous catalysis, inorganic reaction mechanisms, bioinorganic chemistry, p-block chemistry, polymeric drug delivery…what kind of chemist am I again?
hear read things about the role of PowerPoint (and related presentation software like Prezi and Keynote and whatever the free equivalents are called) in teaching and I rarely hear anything particularly positive. At the extreme end I hear people calling for it to be ‘banned’ in teaching. There isn’t another end of that scale, I don’t think you’re going to catch anyone advocating that such software is the only thing that should ever be used for teaching ever. There is probably some driving force in that most teaching rooms are set up to accommodate that style of teaching but that’s a different post.
I have to disagree with the people that dismiss PowerPoint out of hand for a couple of reasons but it really boils down to the question of why one would critique the tool rather than the use to which it is put? Software that facilitates presentations…a tool, no more and no less. And people, lecturers and teachers, will largely use those tools to the best of their abilities. And perhaps they can be coached into better uses of those tools (and sometimes better uses include moderate use and inclusion of diverse tools).
Thing is, PowerPoint allows some lecturers and teachers to teach to the best of their abilities. There, I said it. PowerPoint is probably the tool that makes some lecturers more engaging and helps them present information in a manner that a class can follow and engage on some level with. Lecturers with the capacity to go beyond PowerPoint, to include different methods and activities, greater interactivity and the like, well they’ll do it regardless. And some never will.
When I consider some of the alternatives, and consider some of the lectures I have experienced, I can only conclude that I’m grateful that such tools now exist. I still recall the first year physics lectures, frantically scratching down 14 sides of proofs and derivations, as the professor whizzed through the class. I can recall the lectures printed onto acetates and available in hideously large font to print on the ‘web’. Or the lecturer that hooked up the role of acetate on to the OHP from decades earlier and scrolled through it, gesturing and talking away, forgetting entirely that the class were trying to transcribe it all. And I’m thinking that it’s probably a good thing that we’ve learned to be a bit better in presentation now.
Now, Prezi on the other hand…I’d ban that from the classroom on the grounds that making a class seasick is not a good way to develop a decent learning environment!
I’ll warn you all that this post is likely prelude to a far larger series of posts on the nature of teaching and how there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
It is week 10 of the semester here and that means that everyone is pretty fraught. Deadlines, marking, the uncovery of under- or un-prepared lectures right before Christmas and for some, the residual effects of REF2014. Despite all that, there are a few reasons to be cheerful, if a little perplexed.
1. Inviting a class to indicate the splitting of peaks on NMR by holding an appropriate number of fingers in the air will (in hindsight, quite predictably) lead to half the class taking the opportunity to stick one or two fingers up at you. What is surprising is that it is fairly challenging to remember to put your own hands round the right (non-profane) way when doing it too.
2. Chemical reactions do not stop because you have turned the stirrer plate off.
3. Most chemical reactions take lengths of time approximately equal to (a) how long the experimenter wanted to go home for overnight, (b) a weekend or long weekend, (c) the length of time between starting the reaction and returning from lunch. The arbitrary nature of these timings mean that it is almost critical to replicate the reason for these timings when performing similar reactions. At least, that’s how the current crop of reactions are going.
4. Sometimes chemical reactions work the way they are supposed to.
5. Sometimes chemical reactions do not do as described in literature preps, and sometimes the ‘common advice’ given in those circumstances is utterly and totally wrong. Yes, that might be a 1 in a 1000 reaction distinction but it is important.
6. When doing outreach with primary school age children, do not be surprised when they understand the intricacies of having to cook a Christmas cake in advance and let it ‘sit’ for a few days. They pay attention.
7. Making PVA slime is the energy minimum for the room. It exerts an almost gravitational like pull on those in the room to come and do it. Always take extra helpers.
8. This: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qniwI2hNhDs [yes it is a YouTube video, yes it is safe for work, yes you do need sound]
9. And this: http://www.waterstones.com/blog/2013/12/introducing-o-w-l-s/
This was first posted on February 10th 2009. It’s an issue that’s just cropped up again in 3rd year projects!
That is the chemist’s question, this chemist anyway. In much the same way that one pays for food in a restaurant because the chef has added value by cooking and combining raw ingredients, a chemist’s essential job is to add value to basic chemicals through syntheses or novel applications. If only it were that simple.
Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxanes (POSS) are a perfect example of the chemist’s dilemma. These are cages of silicon and oxygen, a silicon on each corner and bridging oxygen. As silicon can have four substituents, the empty site is an organic group. I’m particularly interested in the cubic versions of these.
The synthesis of POSS cubes is a perfect example of adding value to simple chemicals. You can buy the starting materials quite cheaply, but many of the reactions are low yielding (20 %) and take a long time (1 – 3 months). There isn’t a great deal of effort involved because you put the reaction on and leave it until beautiful crystals form and can be filtered out. There are other ways but not always to the particular molecules I need.
I make them, but I could buy them. The price is not unreasonable, and I would be more or less guaranteed a certain quantity of product without stirring several litres of acetone solutions for several weeks. There would also be some quality standard in their manufacture, which would be reassuring given that sometimes the synthesis can go a wee bit wrong. I could also order some tomorrow and have it delivered by the end of the week: a far cry from 6 weeks of patient crystal watching.
Make or buy, make or buy. I’m not the first chemist to come up against this dilemma, and I wont be the last. There are many reasons to make your own. The time and precursor cost may be significantly less than the purchase price. The chemical may be particularly sensitive to degradation or fickle to store – fresh may well be best. There may be an educational benefit for a student to make something. There are many reasons to buy it in, particularly if cost is not an issue, or if time is an issue. It’s just something that needs to be weighed up.
Of course, I’m interested in these molecules because I want to do more with them, I literally want to make molecules that money can’t buy. I want to make sure that I start with the best possible materials.
Is there a comparable dilemma in bio-research? Do you worry about growing or buying cells, or purchasing kit reagents rather than making your own? What about other disciplines?
This was first posted on April 20th 2009 on v2.0 of this blog. It’s still relevant.
Is there something about being a scientist that means we are obliged to deal with public misconceptions of science? Should we be rising up and defeating all examples of bad science or pseudoscience in the media, on tv or in the newspapers?
The main purpose of wider engagement for scientists is to recruit more scientists. It is to portray a career in science as an achievable goal for anyone who wishes to try, and to break down the barriers that decades (centuries?) of negative stereotyping have created. Yes, I did say that anyone who wished one could have a career in science. You don’t have to be a professor to be a scientist, what about the lab techs and similar? As scientists we generally feel that the world would be a better place if there were more scientists, more discoveries, more people able to comprehend our elaborate experimental elucidations. I’m reasonably sure that most vicars feel that the world would be a better place if there were more respectably religious people and bigger congregations on Sunday mornings.
…continued below the fold…
Continue reading REPOST: Do scientists have a duty to engage the public?
A draft post from December 2011, never published but worth considering this year before the Christmas conference season is once again upon us.
From the look of my Twitter timeline, and the absence of a handful of colleagues, it is the time of year for Christmas meetings of this or that groups of Chemists. I’m not a great fan of Christmas meetings for a variety of reasons but that’s not what has me thinking this lunchtime. @S_J_Lancaster just asked (MASC11 is Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry):
Are any of the #MASC11 lectures captured?
And there it is.
How many talks at conferences are actually interesting/useful/insightful? For me there have always been a handful that are relevant or inspiring and then there is the rest. There are the big names presenting that you feel obliged to go to and be seen at, there are the early career researchers presenting who deserve a good sized audience but who’s topic is not really of interest and there are the rest of the talks by fledged academics that are not in your area and not interesting to you. If you break down the cost of a conference per hour of meaningful content, it’s a pretty expensive hourly rate!
Why aren’t conference talks screencast? I’m not necessarily talking about the high tech solution of video recording of the room, edited to produce a glistening and wonderful piece of entertainment. If you want that, go and watch the latest Brian Cox lecture on iPlayer. I’m talking about slides and voice, what more do you need? One PC running Camtasia or similar, and one dictaphone would be all that is required. And how many more researchers could benefit from those talks?
At this point you’re probably shaking your head and thinking that I don’t understand that conferences are about the face-to-face interactions, the conversations, the network maintenance and connection building. No, seriously, I get it. But I also understand what it is like to have a very very limited budget for conference attendance, to miss out on the cutting edge ideas and general sense of where a field is headed, and a general sense of not knowing who the new key players are in a field. Capturing the lectures at conferences would go some way to alieviating this. Look at the popularity of TED talks, would a chemistry version of that not be similarly useful?
There are also more practical reasons why this would generally be a good thing: every academic makes a value judgement when contemplating a conference trip. We decide if the complex constellation of finance, teaching timetable, family committments, merit of speakers and opportunities to present are alligned well enough to pay up and head off to a meeting. There are often ‘nearly but not quite’ conferences where we fancy going for a couple of sessions, but not the whole thing (and unless it is hyperlocal, day delegate rates are not worthwhile). We could just as easily catchup later via YouTube or similar.
The delegate rates are probably one of the main reasons this can’t happen. Conferences are expensive to organise and run, and the fear would be that attendance would suffer if people could watch later from the comfort of their own desks. But subtract catering, room hire, printed material and a few other things from that cost; compensate with technical support (recording, editing, uploading), webhosting etc and you could probably come up with a reasonably fair pay-per-view rate.
All of our final year students do an independent research project irrespective of degree. There’s little point in discussing how to select a project in the first place because most institutions ask students to pick a selection of projects and hopefully allocate one of them. Anyway, its an undergraduate project and while extremely important in the context of the degree, a second or third choice probably isn’t going to be a deal breaker. But what do you do once you start your project? It’s pretty big and overwhelming to tackle (in theory, hopefully in practice) something no one has done before.
The first thing is probably to know how you are going to be assessed. The project is probably some fraction of the final year mark, and there are likely guidelines. Read them. Figure out what you have to do right now, and on a regular basis to maximise the ‘easy marks’. For example, if there are guidelines on how often you should meet your academic supervisor and that you should take minutes of those meetings in your lab book, plan to do it. If there are guidelines on how to keep your lab book (e.g. contents pages, address, record of hours, references to literature, evidence of reading papers), come up with a plan to do it. Pay particular attention to whether you require signatures or other contemporary information in your lab book and put a note in your diary to get them.
Secondly, think about how you will manage the project, the information obtained and data generated. That’s what your lab book is for but you will also need some kind of file system for samples and electronic data. All file names and sample names should be recorded in the lab book and referred to at appropriate moments. For what it is worth, I have no preference whether lab books are kept in strict chronological order (but remember to cross reference so that it makes sense) or whether literature reading, or extensive spectral data interpretation is put at the back so as not to disrupt the flow of experimental musings (but remember to include it in your contents). For the duration of your project, your lab book is the sacred place where you will record everything you do, think, read and interpret. And stuff you do in October must must must make sense in March when you write it up so be detailed. Never ever keep a ‘rough’ lab diary in the lab and go home and write it up neatly. That is not the point. Your lab diary should be legible, you can always add additional information at your leisure but never transcribe into a different book. Similarly, cross out with a single line, don’t use correction fluid, use some kind of ink pen that does not run if you spill water on it.
Thirdly, you are conducting research which may be published. It is imperative that you conduct that research with the utmost honesty and integrity. If you forget to write down a mass or volume of reagent added, record that in your book. While your supervisor may frown at the unreproducible procedure because you didn’t make a note, it’s nothing compared to what they will feel if you make up the value and the procedure doesn’t work for the next student. You must be able to produce, at any time during your project, your data in original format. There are requirements in each subfield of chemistry for what kind of analysis is required. It will depend on whether you are making a new-to-the-universe compound, or whether you are reproducing a previous prep. In any case, you’re trying to demonstrate your skills as a researcher, so doing a variety of valid and accessible characterisation techniques (unless told otherwise) is probably a good idea. If in doubt, ask. Record your data accurately, print out and stick in complicated data sets if necessary, and hard copies of spectral data. Record your interpretations in your lab book – you’ll have to type them into your report anyway and that’s easiest if you have a hand written copy to start with.
Fourthly, your mark will reflect what you put in. Read only the papers your supervisor gives you? Walk into their office each day and ask ‘what am I doing in the lab today’? Your mark isn’t going to be fantastic because you’re not demonstrating your thinking, planning and general research skills. Find other papers (a good starting point is finding the papers cited by and citing the papers your supervisor gives you). Walk into their office and ask ‘I think I should do X next, how does that sound?’, or ‘I think Y is the next step but I’m a little unsure about Z’. Chances are you’ll ask your project supervisor to write you a reference so you want to develop a decent relationship.
Finally, safety and courtesy matters. You are obliged to follow your institutions health and safety requirements. That means no work without supervisor approval and a completed risk assessment form (at my institution, others may vary). That also means demonstrating exceptional chemical hygiene, researching your chemicals to understand their specific risks and how they should be handled, asking more experienced people as standard. It also means double checking your reflux condensers to avoid floods, not leaving the lab while your reaction is unstable (e.g. heating up, chemical adding unless at an extremely slow rate), and ensuring that every single item of glassware containing your very precious reactions are labeled clearly. Be courteous, there is always a limited quantity of glassware in a lab. Do not store products in reaction vessels – transfer to sample vials as soon as reasonably possible. Do not hoard glassware or equipment unless explicitly allowed to do so. Pick up your NMR tubes/other sample containers from the instrument after they have run, clean them and put them away for next time. Don’t nick other people’s stuff!
And just in case you were wondering, it should be interesting, challenging and enjoyable. It should at least let you figure out if research is something you might like to do in the future, and add some awesome skills to your CV for the job hunt.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Sometimes it is fun being stuck half way up a gully trying to get back to the cliff top. Other times it’s less fun and tricky to negotiate. Now, does that sound like anything else I know? Why yes! It reminds me a lot of marking.
In addition to the electronic feedback exploits, I have been doing some work requiring peer assessment. I suspect none of the general issues that have arisen are particularly new, but probably pretty representative of your average peer marking exploits (unwillingness to give lower marks, want to be nice to friends, reluctant to write comments etc) but one conversation last week stood out and I’ve been brewing over it for a few days*. Our institution, like many I suspect, has tended to suggest specific words to use while marking. So 2ii marks are ‘good’, 2i are ‘very good’, 1sts go from excellent through outstanding and hit ‘could not be bettered at undergraduate level in time available’. 3rds and bare passes are average or fair. Looking at my average range of marks on course work, I’d say marks between 58 and 62 would be better given the designation ‘average’ but in the context of modules (complete with the unseen exams), something in the low-mid 50s would be average.
For one assignment a couple of weeks ago I’d devised a marking scheme involving 5 x 10 mark aspects ranging from 0 (didn’t show up) through to 10 (could not be better). I put in the words associated with each point so for 5/10 I put good, 7/10 was excellent etc. One of my students pointed out to me that if I said their work was good, they’d feel really pleased and expect a cracking mark. If I said they then had 5/10 or 50%ish for the work, they’d feel disappointed. I probably should have asked the question of well what mark would be good, and what would be excellent then, but I suspect it would vary greatly depending on the expectation of the student and their self-concepts related to performance in the subject and necessary skills.
I did point out that to some students, a mark in the 50s was good and possibly more than they thought they could achieve. That gave us all some food for thought and reminded me of a conversation over the summer with another student who thought everyone was capable of a first. At the time I gently reminded them that performance in degrees was a function of the personal circumstances in which they found themselves and that not everyone had the opportunity to pour themselves heart and soul into their studies. Life and things like family, part time work, illness tend to intervene. We agreed that a degree was a reflection of what you could do in the time available with respect to your circumstances, and I think the same is true of any assignment.
I don’t think some people in the class were satisfied by that and without defining what constitutes good/very good/excellent in terms of the assignment, it’s a difficult debate to have. I don’t want to constrain students by the notion that the best they are capable of is good, but I don’t want them to feel that achieving marks in the 50s is inadequate. I believe I had an English teacher at high school who used to say our goal on entering the examination room was to be able to honestly say ‘I could not have reasonably done more’. I think if a student submits work, that sentiment would also apply. I’d suggest that the class and I might have a conversation in the future about what reasonably means in the context of university work, but it will do OK.
As for the peer assessment scheme, we’re using the same mark scheme for an activity this week (the earlier one was formative, this is summative) and I face the (probably common) dilemma of how to deal with slightly higher than ideal peer-assessment marks. I may resort to the olympics scoring system for gymnastics – discount the highest and lowest marks and average the rest. I may also open the session with some descriptions of good through excellent in context and remind them all of the expectation that they have improved based on the formative exercise.
It has had a knock on effect to the marking I’m currently doing. I’m taking greater care over the language I’m using and am generally avoiding good entirely. I am using very good and excellent however where the situation warrants it. The biggest effect is that I’m happier writing feedback on the current set of work than settling on a grade. At one point I was tempted to write feedback on all the work and send it back to the students. I thought I could tell them to figure out what grade they thought they deserved based on the feedback (perhaps increasing the chances of the majority reading the feedback?). I decided against that but it’s going to be the next thing niggling away in the early hours of the morning.
*OK I’ll admit that I’ve been brewing over a few things, mainly at 5am in the morning but thinking about this one has distracted me from the more frustrating things that better resemble being stuck somewhere completely intractable. But I do love it when conversations with students provoke this level of internal debate.