Like so many things I’ve tried in the classroom this year, I first heard about two-stage exams at Carl Wieman’s summer workshop. The idea is to have students first take an exam individually (i.e., the usual way), and then have them take the same exam again in groups. My students in Applied Econometrics have done this three times this spring and the results have been glorious.
Everyone has an opinion about course evaluations, but unfortunately most of these opinions are based on personal anecdotes and armchair speculation. Our guest in this episode is Betsy Barre, author of several articles reviewing the literature on what’s right and what’s wrong with course evaluations. Betsy is currently an Associate Director at Rice University’s Center for Teaching Excellence, and in May 2018 she will move on to become the Executive Director of the Teaching and Learning Collaborative at Wake Forest University. We cover a lot of ground during our conversation about this important and complex topic.
Andrea Stevenson Won is an assistant professor in the Cornell Communication Department where she directs the Virtual Embodiment Lab. She studies how people communicate in virtual environments and how this differs from other forms of communication. She spends her days working with the latest virtual reality gear and conducting experiments in virtual worlds. She’s also collaborating with physicists to create new ways of teaching using VR. In this episode Andrea talks with us about how virtual reality affects her teaching today and how it could affect all our teaching tomorrow.
Cornell psychologist Robert Sternberg has done seminal work on creativity, wisdom, and cognitive styles. He cares deeply about higher education and teaching, and in this episode we focus on the role of creativity in the classroom. We talk about the importance of creativity in today’s labor market, how to measure creativity, and how students are motivated to learn when they are given an opportunity to be creative.
Standard assessments of student learning are vital to quantifying the effectiveness of different teaching methods (Freeman et al. 2014). Physics, biology, and chemistry have well over 100 publicly available assessments that cover a wide range of courses and topics. Economics currently has only one high quality standard assessment that is appropriate for undergraduate students: the Test of Understanding College Economics (TUCE). George Orlov (Cornell’s first Economics Active Learning Initiative postdoc) and I have spent the last six months developing two new assessments of learning in econometric methods that we hope will catalyze improvements in economic education.
After 145 blog posts and 69 podcast episodes, the Teach Better website needed some TLC. The look and feel were dated, and more important, a ton of great content was getting lost under the more recent great content. Over the winter break, I upgraded the underlying software (Jekyll) and overhauled the navigation of the site. Check out the new podcast and blog pages to browse the archives in brand new ways, and let me know what you think either by mail, on Twitter or in the comments below!
In this episode we take a walk through our archive and share some amazing examples of extreme teaching. These include college classes prisons and chapels, incorporating balloons and cotton candy machines into a student project fair, and holding office hours on the radio. If you’re new to the podcast or just want to be inspired by feats of pedagogical daring, you’re going to love this one.
This might sound crazy, but the best teaching idea I implemented in 2017 was giving a test on the second day of class. And I mean a full on 40 minute exam, not a little quiz.