Teaching 2015-2016

I taught the following courses during this academic year:

All of the course websites can be reached by clicking on the course titles above.

Overview of Pedagogical Growth this Year:

After attending the Project New Experiences in Teaching (Project NExT) workshops over the course of the past two years, I was motivated to adopt a modified flipped-classroom approach in all of my classes this year. That means the students are expected to read the course text and complete a short reading quiz before class so that we can spend the bulk of our class time discussing the material in depth and working on homework problems in groups. In all of these courses, I used a rolling-trio of homework assignments to get the students to view and review the material over a much longer period of time than they would in a traditional lecture-style class.

Here is a short desciption of the rolling trio of assignments:

Before we cover a topic in class, the students are assigned a reading assignment and a few short Just in Time Teaching (JiTT) essay questions on the Part A assignment that is turned in before class on Canvas. We then discuss the results of the Part A assignment at the beginning of class, and then the students spend the rest of the class time discussing and working on a Part B assignment that is turned in at the end of class using a scanner app on their phone. Finally, before the following class meeting, the students turn in a Part C assignment that is a more formal write-up of a few of the problems from the Part B assignment.

Here is a breakdown of which assignments are due on each class period:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5

1A 1B 1C

2A 2B 2C

3A 3B 3C

4A 4B …

So on Day 3 for instance, the students turn in Assignments 3A and 1C before class, and then they turn in 3B after working on it in class.

Both the Part A and Part B assignments are completion grade only, while the Part C assignment is graded on the quality of the solution and the accompanying explanation.

Flipping my classes continues to be considerable undertaking with a lot of time spent on preparing course related materials and planning classroom activities. However, I feel that the students responded positively to this pedagogical approach in all of my classes.

Additional teaching activities related directly to these courses included the following:

    • The creation and maintenance class webpages for all courses, using regular HTML code.
    • The use of online quizzes and homework submissions and grading on CANVAS.
    • SPARCT workshop and Lucas Center Book Clubs

Here are some reflections and comments about each course I taught this year. Focusing on what worked well, and what I would like to change the next time I teach it.

Summer 2014:

MAC 2233: After participating in the STEM Professional Academy to Reinvigorate the Culture of Teaching (SPARCT) at the beginning of the summer, I completely redesigned the way I teach Elementary Calculus. In particular, this summer was the first time that I taught Elementary Calculus without the use of Webassign. Instead, I used the rolling trio of homeworks using Canvas. The students submitted a short Just in Time Teaching (JiTT) quiz before class started. I based my short mini-lecture at the beginning of each class around their responses. They submitted a pdf of their coursework right after class using a smart phone scanner app and the Canvas app. Then they submitted a formal write up of their homework after the following class using the smart phone scanner app on Canvas. The response was overwhelmingly positive to this homework approach. The students appreciated that they did not waste money on an online homework site that constantly crashes (cough Webassign).

Fall 2014:

MAC 2233: After giving the course I designed in the SPARCT program a trial run in the summer B session, I decided to keep the same course structure for the fall semester. Since the majority of the class time is dedicated to active learning, I also arranged for two teaching assistants to help me in the classroom to help answer questions. The course went incredibly well. Once again the students expressed their appreciation for my homework system developed on Canvas because it allowed them to get meaningful feedback on their written work, and they had the freedom to turn in assignments at their convenience.

MAD 3107: I feel that Discrete Mathematics was a huge success this year. The students responded positively to the rolling trio of homework system, and their test scores were several points higher than last year's class. (I gave the same exams as last year, but the students did not know that until after the course was over.) I made the students switch groups often throughout the beginning of class, and I think that this made them much more comfortable speaking in front of their peers by the end of the semester. I found that the students were quite content working on their assignments in small groups.

MAS 5311: This was my second time teaching Modern Algebra I. This semester went much better than the fall of 2013. I believe this is because all of the students who enrolled in this year's course were much better prepared, and entered the class with a relatively equal level of preparation.

Spring 2015:

MAS 3105: I think that the flipped classroom approach with a rolling trio of assignments has been a great success so far in Linear Algebra as well. Just like last year, the test scores are very strong because the students are getting lots of formative assessment in class and on their homework assignments. I have also figured out how to assign peer reviews of homework assignments on Canvas. I have required each student to assess two other randomly selected peers' type B homework assignments. This helped the students with weaker mathematical writing skills identify what "quality" mathematical written responses look like, and given the stronger students the task of explaining troubling concepts to their peers.

The one unintended consequence of moving to three 50 minute class periods this semester, is that my average attendance is down this semester. Most of the students are attending two out of every three lectures, but since we do not cover as much in any one class period, many of them do not feel it is worth it to drive 50 minutes for a 50 minute class at 9 am. I can empathize, but I still irked by the drop off in attendance, so I am going to start giving a 10 percent attendance grade next semester.

MAS 5312: All four graduate students who are enrolled in this course are doing very well. I have little doubt that at least three-fourths of them will pass the qualifying exam. It is a much stronger bunch than last year's class, and my use of the flipped classroom in a graduate class is becoming much more polished. I have realized that expecting graduate students to be able to read a section of the book and instantly have intuition on how to start a problem is unrealistic. This semester I have been including helpful hints and even some outlines of proofs for each problem on their part B and C assignments. This scaffolding seems to help them come to class prepared to present these problems, and improves their overall proof-writing skills, as they see that most proofs in abstract algebra follow a similar template.

MAP 3163: This is my first time teaching Operations Research 1. In fact, I have never taken an operations research course before. Luckily, Operations Research is a fancy name for applied combinatorics and applied linear algebra, which are two of my specialties. This class has gone amazingly well for my first time teaching it. This is in large part because the course contains some of the best mathematics majors FGCU has ever had. Two were just inducted into the FGCU hall of fame, and another three or four of them could easily be inducted in next year's hall of fame. I have found that talented and motivated students thrive in the rolling trio of homeworks flipped classroom structure. It gives them the freedom to discover mathematics at their own pace, which is often faster than a lecture aimed at the masses can go. At the same time, the students quickly identify which topics and problems they do not understand well and we use our precious 50 minutes of class time to discuss the tougher concepts and work through difficult problems.

Here are syllabi and SAI reports from each class this year.