Over at Discovering Biology in a Digital World, Sandy thanks me for, “unintentionally starting a public teaching journal.” That was a very nice way to describe what’s been going on here in the comment threads for the posts where I’ve talked about what I’m inflicting upon the hapless undergrads I’ve been assigned. It feels a lot more like being the subject of a pathology lecture. Still, I did volunteer for this, and the comments are helping – I hope.
In my last post on teaching, I vented a bit about the results of the most recent quiz I gave. In particular, I was annoyed that 25% of the students in one of my sections incorrectly answered a question on the quiz that I had discussed, using almost the same words as the quiz, less than five minutes before giving the quiz. A couple of the responses to that suggested that I try doing things that I had actually tried to do. That’s not the fault of the commenters, however, since I spent most of the post venting, and didn’t detail the entire approach that I had taken. This time, I will do just that. Having my teaching methods taken apart in the comments here is painful, but it’s preferable to not getting the material through. If you read this, and see something you think I could have done more effectively, please do let me know.
The lab that I just quizzed the students on was a basic genetics lab. There were a number of excercises for this lab, but the main one had the students determine their own blood type. I did a lecture prior to the experiment, and went over blood group inheritance. I went over blood group inheritance again with students on a one-on-one basis during the experiment, while looking at their results.
The week after the experiment, I gave back the totally awful quiz that I mentioned way back at the start of this series of posts. I went over my expectations for quizzes with them, and told them that one of the things I was going to expect was for them to read the handouts before the quizzes and be able to define any word that appeared in boldface. I apologized for not defining the words during the prior lab, and told them that I would answer any question asked in lab, and would respond to questions emailed to me before 7 pm the evening before the next lab. I also went over the results from the week before, and had about a quarter of the students tell me what their blood type was, and what bloodtypes their parents could not have. We also discussed the use of blood tests in assessing parentage, and I had some of them explain why blood typing could eliminate someone as a possible parent, but could not confirm that they were the parent. Finally, I told them that I was postponing the quiz by one week to give them a better chance to prepare, and that they would definitely be having one this week.
Between last week and this week, I received a grand total of zero email questions.
This week, I started out the lab with another review of genetics. We went over the inheritance of mid-digital hair, and used data that the students had collected from their parents to determine how the trait is inherited. We talked about how the inheritance of mid-digital hair differs from AB blood group inheritance. At the end of that, I reminded them that an AB parent couldn’t have an O child, then asked if there were any questions before the quiz. There were few, and none involved blood group inheritance. The students were then given the quiz, the second question of which was, “Mom has AB+ blood. Can she have a child with type-O blood?” 20% of one section got that one wrong, as did 25% of the other section.
Aside from possibly tatooing the answer to the question across my forehead, I’m not sure what else I could have done to try and teach that material.