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A number of new homework problems
were written by the instructors for the FA11 and SP12 transformed E&M II
course at CU, but many were also borrowed and adapted from previous
instructors, in some cases modified to greater emphasize sense making and/or
connections to real-world situations. Homework problems are sorted by topic, and are
given in both PDF and Word format. If you would like to see the original, complete homework sets, these can be found in the password-protected course archive– individual questions in the accompanying documents indicate which instructors used them. for access to this download). Below are brief notes on the “Pre-Instruction Diagnostics”, the problem-solving sessions used in both semesters of the transformed courses, and the weekly online "preflight" questions.
We ask for your cooperation in not making solutions to these homework
questions available on the open web.
I. Pre-Instruction Diagnostics
These were given at the very beginning (as in, the first day) of the FA11 and SP12 E&M II courses at CU (the two
diagnostics are similar, but not exactly alike). In FA11, students were given two versions of the diagnostic
– one they completed on their own, without help from others or
reference to outside materials, to be handed in on the next day – the
second was to be completed afterward with any help they desired, to be turned
in at the beginning of the second class period. The SP12 version was completed by students only once, and
turned in on the second day of class.
In the end, both ways of doing it provided a great deal of information
about what students were capable of after a long break between semesters, and helped
us decide how to approach the first week of the semester, which was devoted to
review topics from electrostatics.
Giving two versions allowed us to separately gauge what students could
first do entirely on their own, and then what they were capable of when they
had their textbook and notes in front of them. Results from our own implementations of these diagnostics will be summarized as
part of future publications.|
II. Homework Problem-Solving Sessions
In lieu of “office hours”, both FA11 and SP12 E&M II courses held twice-weekly homework help sessions
outside of class (two hours each, on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, with assignments
due on Wednesdays). The FA11
sessions were staffed by instructors and undergraduate learning assistants; in
SP12, the two instructors alternated staffing them individually. The sessions were held in a large room
with sufficient table space for students to work together on the homework
problems, with occasional guidance from an instructor. This was particularly enlightening to
us as instructors and researchers, since we could observe students as they were
engaged in the process of “figuring it out”. They were also extremely popular with students - 84% of FA11
students rated these sessions as useful
or very useful for their
learning. 80% of SP12 students who
attended the sessions gave them similar ratings, though in this case 30% of
students reported they could not attend the sessions because of scheduling
conflicts (many of them were concurrently enrolled in a conflicting
III. Preflight Questions
Preflights are short questions or tasks asked online, used to orient students to upcoming material (to encourage reading the textbook before coming to class, and to reflect on key points in the material), where their responses can be used by an instructor to inform their preparations for upcoming lectures, by focusing on specific difficulties students have with new material. These preflights were loosely modeled on ones from the US Air Force Academy, an upper-division offshoot of Just-in-time Teaching (JITT). For more information, see:
G.M. Novak, E.T. Patterson, A.D. Gavrin and W. Christian, Just-in-time Teaching (Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1999),
and other publications associated with these authors.
The FA11 and SP12 transformed E&M II courses at CU assigned weekly preflights that were due either on Monday (FA11) or Tuesday/Wednesday (SP12) before class. Preflight assignments represented a small percentage of their total grade (6% for FA11 and 3% for SP12), and were graded pass/fail, based solely on effort and not correctness. Preflights at CU were administered through the D2L (Desire2Learn) system: http://learn.colorado.edu. They are all available for download in a zipped file, though it would be easiest to refer to the Course Calendars for the FA11 and SP12 E&M II courses, where they are individually available as PDF files, so they can be seen in context. Also included in this zipped file are the original preflight questions from USAFA (thanks to Fred Kontur).
Overall, the preflights were not particularly popular with our students, though they were extremely useful to us as instructors and education researchers. In other words, despite the valuable information we received from students, they did not find the preflights particularly helpful for their learning (only 14% of SP12 and 30% of FA11 students rated preflights as either useful or very useful for their learning). This may in part be due to low student participation (they needed constant reminders in both courses that the preflights were due each week), and also that they were due on Monday mornings in the FA11 course – many students reported being averse to doing homework over the weekends (50% of FA11 students and 77% of SP12 students reported that they usually did not begin working on homework assignments until one or two days before the assignments were due – both courses assigned homework on Wednesdays, which were due the following Wednesday, and both held weekly problem-solving sessions on Mondays and Tuesdays, where students could work together on homework problems. Instructors should keep these factors in mind when deciding whether and how to implement preflights in their own courses.