Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In or out?


Just got back from a whirlwind tour of Champaign-Urbana, and boy are my arms...wait, no, that's not right...

I spent a bit of time this past weekend (Fall Break here at UNCAland) wandering around my old hometown of Urbana, Illinois, remembering what it was like to teach at a school much larger than UNCA.


There's not as strong an emphasis there on one-on-one interaction. There's not as much time available for face-to-face meetings, for individualized attention. It's a wholly different dynamic.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, things got back into gear in MATH 365 with some work with another "exotic" vector space, the collection of all polynomials in a single variable x. We reviewed the idea of bases and linear independence in the context of an arbitrary vector space, and we made some tentative moves towards coordinatization, to be continued on Friday.

So here's the question I'm grappling with regarding the next exam: in-class or take-home? I've had a few folks say that they'd rather continue with the take-home format, which offers a good deal of time to work the problems out, pick them apart, develop a robust understanding of them, learn from them. Others have said that the take-home exam was very stressful, that they'd feel more comfortable taking a more "contained" in-class exam: it might be painful, but after an hour, the pain is gone.

Let me put the question out there for all of you MATH 365 folks: in-class or take-home? Which would you prefer, and why? I'd really appreciate hearing from you on this issue, anonymously, if you prefer!


Anonymous said...

i'm voting for in-class!

but i mean straight-forward in-class, not word problems and issues that require employment of everything we have ever learned in life... i just wanted that previous exam to be like "compute the inverse of the following matrix" or "row-reduce the following matrix" and such, kinda like the quizzes. and, haha!, yes i know, you'll say, "but you can do a lot of that on your calculators anyway." i know. that's why you would then ban calculator use, that's what other profs do.

when teachers in elementary (spelling?) school taught us how to add, they didn't make us plow through tedious word problems that took hours to solve.. they just said add 2+2.. and even though we didn't have to suffer through "real-world" problems, we learned how and when to apply addition, and we still remember how to do it! :)

if i can work a straight-forward problem, and understand the concept behind it, i should be able to apply it to anything that hits me later on. on the other hand, i will never be able to relate --for example-- the first problem on the last exam to anything else, unless i have to solve a similar problem b/c i specialize in drainage or something later on in life..... and by the way, if it hadn't been for my understanding of mixing problems from diffy q's, i would have never been able to see the big picture to work that problem out, and the exams for that class were purely computational and very straight-forward (he didn't let us use calculators).

see in-class exams are perfect :)

DocTurtle said...

There's one vote! Anyone care to add to that, second it, disagree, et cetera?

Anonymous said...

I personally liked having a take-home exam. It was a very stressful time in terms of other due dates and deadlines for everybody’s other classes, but I found it a bit less stressful when I knew I could pick it up and work on when I felt especially motivated during the 48 hours we were given. It seems like post-undergraduate won’t be any easier, meaning deadlines won’t work out well all the time.
I like the material that was on the exam, too. Considering that an in-class exam would probably be very redundant and elementary, I would never think of the material once the test was over. I can honestly say that I will probably remember the tank of saline problem for a good long time. The problems were very much “real world,” which makes the solutions much more rewarding for me.
Now that we are in higher level math and we are out of high school classes, we need to be pushed harder. This last take-home exam seemed like it not only showed how much of the computational side of the course I comprehended, but it also helped me take what I knew and put it into coherent sentences. I feel that if I don’t push myself harder than just memorizing information and regurgitating it onto the page when test time comes around, what’s the point in taking this course?
I look at this class as not just a required credit that I need for my major, but I want to get something out of it that I can use later in life. Even if I never see matrices and vectors after I graduate, I feel like I will at least obtain benefits from learning how to mix analytical thought and application to everyday problems.
Now I’ve put my two cents in, and you can count my vote for another take-home exam.

DocTurtle said...

Point, counterpoint!

I'm always excited whenever this site serves as a forum for lively debate.

Does anyone else want to put in his or her two cents?

Anonymous said...

TAKE HOME PLEASE!! we will all get much more out of the experience.

eliz said...

I think the take-home was really hard, but you wouldn't give an exam just saying what's the inverse or row-reduce this. So I think although you're in class test questions might be easier then the take-home, they'd still be hard for just one hour. As long as there's a problem session sometime during the exam then that's my vote. It might be much harder but in the end I think I learn more and get a better grade.

Anonymous said...

"As long as there's a problem session sometime during the exam then that's my vote."

not everyone has that option.. this brings the fairness point into view.. in-class exams can be more fair in that sense

eliz said...

I said problem session because I can go to those. I know some people can't but he said a lot of people stopped by his office as well. Maybe give more then two days on the take home so people have more time to come to your office and ask for help. Only two days made it more stressful and I can only work after being frustrated for so long. Give us a take home on Monday and have it due Friday. THAT'S my vote.

Anonymous said...

i think that because of the way the class is focused, which is more on concepts less on computation...take home exams are a lot more fair method of testing our comprehension of the material we have covered thus far in this course. and personally i think i actually learned more about the class material from the last test then i would have if i tried to crank out some computations in 50 minutes.

Megan said...

I agree with eliz. I understand that not everyone can go to the problem sessions as eliz said you can go to his office and get the same information, or ask someone who was there.

I vote take home exam. True, the exam was more difficult, but I could take my time on it and it was way less stressful.

DocTurtle said...

Thank you all for your comments and viewpoints, and please continue to post on this thread, since it appears to be a popular one.

I do understand anonymous's comments regarding accessibility of the problem sessions: while I've tried to make them more accessible by alternating evenings, I realize that not everyone's schedule is flexible enough to allow regular attendance.

On the other hand, please rest assured that nothing is done at the problem sessions that cannot be done one-on-one whenever a poor confused student stops by my office. And please know (as I'm sure most of you already do!) that I have roughly 25-30 office hours per week. I am not exaggerating: chances are really good that if I'm on campus and not teaching, I'm either in my office or can be in my office if you'd like to make an appointment. I'm available by appointment at just about any time between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. five (sometimes six) days a week, although most of the time all you need to do is stop by my office.

And I don't bite! And I always have candy!

I like eliz's suggestion of having a little more time to complete the exam. The only downside I can see to that is it reduces the "urgency" of completing the exam, and thereby might conceivably cause people to put it off longer than they should.

At this time, I'm leaning towards one of two options: (1) another take-home, handed out on Monday, November 6th, and due on Friday, November 10th (instead of the intervening Wedesday), giving four days to complete it instead of two; or (2) having an in-class exam, which would probably consist of a few computational problems and a handful of short-essay questions asking to explain certain concepts or methods of computation ("Explain carefully what a subspace is," "explain how to find the coordinate vector for a vector v relative to a given ordered basis B," etc.). This second option I consider inferior from a learning standpoint, but might be a good compromise between the two extremes. Then for the third mid-term exam we could vote between the two formats!

Any thoughts on these choices?

Anonymous said...

no, not essay questions! i never know what exactly you want us to say. but if we do another take-home, please please please make it a bit easier than the past one.. just because you're giving us more time to finish it, don't give us longer and tougher problems to work out.. we'll just be going in circles then and it won't be any better.

eliz said...

Short answer questions will stress me out if I only have 50 minutes to answer them all, that's why I say take-home because of course there will be some sort of short answer and I need more time to think about them.

Anonymous said...

i vote for option #1