Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Improved Test Scores: Why and How

Standard Learning Objective Quiz Results for Introductory Chemistry

Fall 2012 Results

2/19 students got 8/8

5/19 students got 7/8

3/19 students got 6/8

6/19 students got 5/8

2/19 students got 4/8

1/19 students got 3/8

Spring 2013 Results (after implementation of online homework system)

4/21 students got 8/8 

5/21 students got 7/8

4/21 students got 6/8

5/21 students got 5/8

3/21 students got 4/8

These scores are, I believe, proof that an effective online homework system can make an overall difference in student comprehension. Especially in a discipline like chemistry, it is so easy to complete a homework assignment and not understand what overall concepts were reinforced by that assignment. An online homework system can give students the chance to complete an assignment, receive tutorial help with the assignment and real-time feedback on the accuracy of their answers. Then later they can go back and redo the problem for review (practice for the final exam).

As you can see from my small sample size, more students in my class scored 6,7,8 (out of 8) after the implementation of an online learning homework system.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Evolution is a theory the way gravity is a theory."

In an article about creationism vs theory of evolution on Slate posted here, Laura Helmuth makes a statement I'd like to correct. In chapter one of my introductory chemistry text, I require my students to know the difference between a law and a theory. Apparently, Laura Helmuth needs to review her introductory science and familiarize herself with this difference.

Yes, evolution is a theory. It is a large-scale explanation about how life on earth evolved: it includes supporting data, scientific laws, a series of tested hypotheses, and an overall picture of what the process entailed. It is a model of nature. And like any model, it has flaws. It provides us with an imperfect, incomplete picture of what happened over billions of years. It cannot be easily, readily and completely tested and proven over and over again.  Just like any theory, new data may tweak it at any time. There are endless hypotheses to test about this theory. I am sure we do not have complete information, to date, about the evolutionary process. It is an incredibly complex process.

This is in contrast to the scientific law of gravity. The law of gravity holds true over and over again (on earth anyway) based on repeated observable circumstances. You can drop a ball a thousand times and it will always fall toward the ground. It is a repeated observation for which there is no complexity, no unanswered question or further investigation to be done. (This excludes the behavior of gravity on a subatomic scale or out in space.)

Thank you for the article, Laura. I just want to make sure all of your vocabulary is correct.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Transforming Matter: A History of Chemistry from Alchemy to the Buckyball (Johns Hopkins Introductory Studies in the History of Science)

This is the book I pulled off of amazon.com last year and designated as my project for the year. This book and about ten other books of varying subjects. No, I haven't finished it yet but I'm close. My goal is to review it for this blog. Between hosting my in-laws, preparing for baby Shamon #2 and finding a new house, life is really busy right now.

A blog entry is certainly overdue. I  hope to return soon.