Monday, April 1, 2013

Midterm #2

Tomorrow my Rome students will take the second midterm.  This is the exam that has proven to be a real stumbling block to previous cohorts, and nothing I've done seems to have much of an affect on student performance.  I'm very interested to see how this Spring 2013 cohort does.  They have had a chance to practice the material on quizzes; they have had a chance to experience why this chunk of material is particularly challenging.  At the same time, many of them have midterms in other classes; and, by accident, I schedule the exam on the Tuesday after Easter.  Quiz performance dropped noticeably on the most recent quiz.  As well, lecture viewing stats are a bit lower than I'd expect.  I fear that they are going to surge upward in the next 24 hours.  I only hope that the foundations the students set down with their weekly quiz preparation and in class practice will be enough to propel them, even if they are doing a bit too much cramming. 

It is not an easy exam.  In fact, it's substantially more difficult than the ones in Fall 2011 and Fall 2012.  As I wrote the exam, I realized that I needed to raise the bar a bit.  I won't continue to do this, but it's nice to see how much I've been able to improve the quality of learning in the class in just a year.  My sense is that the difficulty level is now about where I want it, and where it should be for a first year course.  It's still a lot of pretty basic information, but now involves much more analysis and a much deeper engagement with the complexities of different events.

I'm holding my breath, hoping for the best  but ready for less.  This exam is why I flipped my class; it's why I have made so many changes to the way the content is delivered and to what I do in class.  The students have been coming to class and engaging.  They have been doing well on the quizzes, despite the hiccup last week.  I hope all of this shows in their performance--in part because I'd like to feel like I've finally come a distance in solving the problem of this middle part of the course.

Addendum 4/3/2013: Some preliminary observations about Midterm #2 (with no information about their actual performance): time was absolutely not a factor, and many of them handed in the exam after about 45-50 minutes. Only one person was writing up to the last minute.  They asked very few questions during the exam.  Anxiety levels seemed quite low, despite the fact that one of the boxes of exams was 5 minutes late to the classroom.  There was no evidence of last minute cramming in the Echo data or on Blackboard.  I am sure that they did several hours of study on Monday and Tuesday morning, but it seems to have taken the form of review rather than desperately attempting to learn the material from scratch.  They seemed to find the exam very predictable.  Although this was a more difficult exam than those in Fall 2011 and 2012, my hunch is that scores will be significantly higher.  I'll know more once we get the scantron data later this week; and once the short answers are graded over the weekend.

Addendum 4/6/2013: 

Fall 2012 multiple choice:
7.6=one question wrong
8.6=two questions wrong
11.4=3 questions wrong (c. 85%)
Spring 2013
18.8%=one question wrong
17.1%=two questions wrong
14.5%=three questions wrong
11.4=4 questions wrong (c. 85%)
MASSIVE difference.  I expect that the correlation between the MC and short answer will be pretty strong (it generally is).  Oh, and this was a more difficult exam than in Fall 2012.  So, what I am seeing is that low stakes assessments dramatically improves performance on more comprehensive exams...  Pretty cool to me (who would never have believed this in August 2012).

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