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Questions for Tuesday presenters  

Please post questions here for any/all of the speakers on Tuesday.


Share edittextuser=24 post_id=2862 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

On Danielle Schmitt's Coriolis visualization activity, another inquiry question (or at last a thought question) to pose to students might be, how come the water streaming out of the bottle on the turntable doesn't move in a circle, as air seems to do (or at least in a spiral) in a hurricane? [Partial answer: the pressure pattern is different!]


Share edittextuser=436 post_id=2871 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Todd (Ellis), when you use the spin tank in a larger class in demonstration mode (as opposed to student hands-on mode), do you have a strategy for finding out how the students interpret what they see in the demo and providing feedback to them about it? I've read about the problem of students misinterpreting what they see in large-class demonstrations, and the misinterpretation often persists even after the instructor has interpreted and explained the key points for them. People have taken the trouble to develop sometimes elaborate strategies for taking advantage of the potential power of demos while mitigating the potential pitfalls (I can try to dig up a reference I encountered recently--can't find it at the moment). There are simpler strategies, too, such as Eric Mazur's peer instruction strategy, with or without the high tech assistance of student response systems ("clickers").


Share edittextuser=436 post_id=2873 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Rob (Kuhlman): Nice example exercises--I'm tempted to try them! How much scaffolding does it take to help the students get the Excel skills they need to do the plotting and regression analysis?


Share edittextuser=436 post_id=2883 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Just looking for comments..
I recently started using think-pair-share activities in my intro. to geology classes. They are working out great and I think the students really enjoy them. The only draw back has been TIME, to run the activities in a 50min class period I have not been covering as much content as I would like to. Do others have this problem, if yes how do you deal with loosing content time. I can see learning 'gains' and student excitement but worry that the net learning gain is lessened by the fact that they missed some content.


Share edittextuser=2123 post_id=2884 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Dave -- It used to be quite easy, back in the days of Office 2003. Now with this stupid Office 2007 which the Evil Empire has rammed down our throats, it isn't easy. What often happens, thankfully, is that within each working group there'll be a student who's an accounting major or a CIS major who acts as the mentor for the rest. In any event, I run through the exercise the night before just to refresh myself where to find the various functions and capabilities within the 'noise' of the 07 'ribbons' so I don't look like too much of a fool in front of the students.

Also, by the time the students get to this particular exercise, they've had some more simplified Excel chores in previous activities, so they're beginning to know their way around Excel by the time they get to this.

I should mention as well, that, much like Julie mentioned today, our school is becoming so 'data-driven' and 'assessment-driven', which is OK. We're also reconfiguring our Core from the smorgasboard course options model to Core Learning Outcomes (how's that for jargon?). The intention will be something along the line of what Julie was describing -- integrating specific core content, skills, and values within our courses (to the extent that we can). Increasingly we're pushing our courses to become more quantitative, and I'm a firm believer in teaching students not to be afraid of quantitative manipulation.

While I'm on the subject of MS, during my summer section I had the students doing a lot of their work asynchronously and sharing files representing their provisional work back and forth. To make their lives easier, we all used the Open Office spreadsheet 'Calc', with good success.



Share edittextuser=444 post_id=2886 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Chad -- with respect to the time/content factor, I gave up on that 3 years ago (much to the chagrin of many of my departmental colleagues). I decided that in 18 months my students won't remember much about the tectonics of the Appalachians, or which sheet silicate is the K-/Al-rich one anyway, but I sure wanted them to retain a fundamentally important life skill -- what science is, and what it isn't, and how we go about it. And in the process if they learn some geoscience, so much the better. Now, with that being said, students taking my Earth Science course and my Environmental Geology course aren't geo majors. I can get away with it unloading content. When I teach Physical Geology and Historical Geology -- courses which are prereqs for upper level courses, I'm indeed constrained to cover content more tightly.

A technique I've used with much success with regard to the time/content dilemma is to assign a lot of group activity to be done asynchronously. Via our Blackboard CMS system, I can give students work to do from Friday to Monday, and if they realize it's to be turned in on Monday for assessment, by and large they do it. I find I'm getting more absolute productivity from my students using computer-based instruction than I did before. For instance, give them an assignment to build and present a Powerpoint presentation on some subject, and they'll work over the weekend or during their weektime 'off days'. And they pick up the content on their own without having to hear them whine about my lectures.



Share edittextuser=444 post_id=2887 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Julie -- I'm really impressed with your building your course around Assessment right from the beginning. I love your rubric. Thanks for the mention of 'rubistar'. I'll have to look into it.



Share edittextuser=444 post_id=2888 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977


Thanks for the encouragement and great ideas. I really appreciate it!



Share edittextuser=2123 post_id=2890 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Rob- I have to admit that in the beginning, the thought of assessment turned my stomach a little. But now that I operate in that format I have found some advantages to it.
1) I stay on track with my outcomes- I teaching according to what I want my students to learn which is very different than teaching according to a topic.
2) My students stay on track with the outcomes- they have a clear definition of what I want them to get out of the class and they work on acheiving that.
3) I spend little to no time meshing with the assessment requirements that have been place on me by the university. Since I'm already operating in that mode, I'm not having to make major adjustments (which mean time) to meet their needs.

Now to address a question Lisa sent over email and I noticed above: I was wondering if you ever feel that you have had to skip coverage of
some topics because of the time you spend in weather discussions? Do
you use homework web assignments to expand the scope of your lectures?

I definitely feel like the detail that I can get into on some topics is minimal because I have a shorter time to lecture. However, when I look at what my outcomes are, I am achieving more of what I want to students to learn with the weather reports than I am with a detailed lecture. I guess that is how I justify it. My students aren't going to become meteorologist. They are dancers, business majors ect. and I really want to them to learn about how to read data, understand the process of science, more than I want them to learn about details of some meteorological phenomena.

I do however utilize blackboard for out of class assignments. They take reading quizzes, and participate in group discussion via blackboard site and all of that is done outside of class. I'm not sure you can really make up on "content" like a lecture would, but you can certainly add to the course using these types of activities.

Hope this helps answer these questions.


Share edittextuser=2130 post_id=2891 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

I'd like to echo the foregoing reassurances about sacrificing quantity (covering X amount of material) in favor of quality (better student learning of selected material and possibly better student attitudes about learning science). For most situations, I'd bet that the trade-off is well worthwhile, and I think that the inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, small-group collaborative learning, and other, student-centered learning strategies can both make teaching more fun for the instructor and learning more fun for the students. (That's not to say that student-centered strategies a magic bullet, can't go awry, or can't present their own frustrations. Nothing is that simple. It's just hard to go back to the traditional lecture model once you've seen students engage much more enthusiastically than they typically do using more passive strategies such as "direct instruction".)

Although the choice is pretty easy to make in non-majors' courses because we're rarely constrained to cover any particular subject matter agenda, I'd suggest that even in majors' courses it's legitimate to ask whether its more important to master a particular body of subject matter or to develop skills for gathering, analyzing, synthesizing, and communicating subject matter, often collaboratively. Those skills require opportunities to practice, and practicing them can lead to deeper understanding of some of the subject matter. The trade-off of better intellectual and other skills in favor of mastering more subject matter might be worthwhile to most students in the long run.


Share edittextuser=436 post_id=2901 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977


It's a good question, and I'd love to see that reference if you happen to come across it. Usually, when I run an in class demo, I usually make sure to start with questions about expectations for what they will see. This is usually a review of some basic concepts (what is Coriolis effect? Which way do we expect the fluid to be deflected?) Then we run through the demo. My assessment right now comes in the form of their weekly lab assignments - the demo serves the role of reinforcing ideas we deal with in lecture and lab, not yet as a stand alone piece.
I have to admit that assessment is something I'm still very weak at - I've had little or no experience with designing assessment. Judging be the comments for the other presentations, I'm going to have to catch up on some of those afternoon talks and see what everyone is talking about


Share edittextuser=2142 post_id=2902 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

By the way, for those of us who were curious, one of my favorite sources of data is the NCEP reanalysis data. You can subset, average, slice and dice any number of surface and upper air fields. It's a great thing for those post-event analyses that I use regularly. The website is

And if you go up a level from that website, you can get all kinds of climate data including ICOADS ship reports, GPCP precipitation climatologies and more. If you have any questions about how to use it, let me know and I can talk you through it.


Share edittextuser=2142 post_id=2903 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Julie - you had a great presentation (one of the few I've gotten to hear). I have a question. I am constantly asking my students critical thinking questions in class, but I let anyone answer (a variety of students answer questions in my classes because they're small). Have you found that the TPS process is more effective than just doing it as a class?


Share edittextuser=1708 post_id=2920 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Mel, absolutely. I have found it's incredibly effective in getting EVERYONE involved because I do it in almost every lecture. So after students have had time to discuss with each other I open it up to classroom discussion. For this I always require a "new" speaker. A student we haven't heard from. Since this goes on all the time, students know that they will have to speak at some point so they don't blow it off and talk about their party last night. I have also noticed my students look forward to the time they have to discuss their ideas with peers. If I don't do a TPS, they miss it.


Share edittextuser=2130 post_id=2934 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977


I finally got to catch up on your presentation from Tuesday. This COMET website is what motivated my use of NCEP reanalysis data to show where a hurricane would go. Maybe there's a way to explain how average geopotential heights over the 850-500 mb layer is the steering level. Maybe we can develop a way to grab and average that data and predict where the hurricane would go using actual data. Would you be interested in developing this?



Share edittextuser=2142 post_id=2935 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977


I just watched your presentation from Tuesday and I'm really impressed. In particular, it's helpful to hear someone else who is pushing for achievement from their students. I've come in and met with resistance from students who were upset to find out that a class that had previously been a "grade booster" was no longer and I had a bit of mutiny that involved spending a lecture period trying to reassure them that the things I was asking them to do are things their employers will also ask them to do...

Anyway, I loved your project. I loved that you gave them rubrics (I forgot how useful those are...), and I really love the Op-Ed part of that project. A colleague and I are preparing a new course very similar to yours for next year and I am excited to adapt this idea to our class. Thanks again!


Share edittextuser=2142 post_id=2936 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Julie - I do discussions in my environmental science course on topics that I don't have to cover in lecture (these are during lab times). I give them some additional reading and have groups of 2 or 3 lead the dicussion (everyone has to lead a discussion during the semester). 1/2 of their discussion grade is leading, and the other 1/2 comes from participating in the discussion when they are not leading. I am still having trouble getting about 1/4 of them to speak up and talk. We've gone through 3 of these already. How do you encourage the quieter students to talk? Do you just call on specific people? Thanks for the input!


Share edittextuser=1708 post_id=2939 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

This post was editted by Kit Pavlekovsky on Jun, 2012
Todd: The reference that I had in mind about some of the pitfalls of classroom demonstrations, and one technique for overcoming these pitfalls, is:

Milner-Bolotin, Kotlicki, and Rieger, 2007. Can Students Learn from Lecture Demonstrations? Journal of College Science Teaching 36 (1): 45-49

A quote from that article: "Amazingly, students remembered not what they saw, but what they expected to see."

Another quote: "Students who have a chance to observe physics demonstrations during lectures (accompanied by the instructor's explanations) without any further activity on students' part show very little learning of the underlying science concepts.... [S]tudents don't gain thorough conceptual understanding just from observing a demonstration. On the other hand, students who had a chance to predict an outcome of a demonstration prior to seeing the demonstration achieved a significantly higher success rate.... Furthermore, students who had the opportunity to make a prediction, discuss it with peers, and only then observe the demonstration, were found to be getting the most out of this learning experience."

(The article then goes on to describe a more elaborate way to engage students in learning from demonstrations. It involves out-of-class analysis of data gathered from a demonstration, etc. The motivation for their alternative approach was in part to avoid what they called the "negative emotional impact on students' confidence" when their predictions of a demonstration's outcome conflict with the observations. You can accept that rationale or not, but their strategy for increasing students' engagement in the demonstration and its results are perhaps worth considering.)


Share edittextuser=436 post_id=2943 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

Dave - thanks for that reference, that's definitely something to think about. I'll read the article over the next few days and see how I feel about it.


Share edittextuser=2142 post_id=2944 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=977

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