May 24, 2008

May progress notes

All May birthdays and the anniversary are now done, all but two of the musical events are done, and one of the two belt tests are done. We know roughly how many faculty are being laid off at my university (very few, which is good, but many staff, which is bad). I'm far behind on many things, but given that it's May and a May with budget cut plans, it could have been much worse on many fronts.

Thus far, plans for the June-July course are apace, and I'll soon have a sense of whether the logistical innovation I'm trying will change the dynamics of a graduate class with working professionals. I'm giving students a limited amount of "leave time" they need to accrue before they can use it to skip class time (roughly up to 8-9% of the total semester time). This switches attendance from an orientation I fear will remind them of undergraduate classes (lose too much, and you drop grades) to something they know in a professional context: you get leave time you can use any time you want, but you have to accrue it before you can use it. (I'm using things like taking quizzes early, spotting omissions or errors in the syllabus, and answering classmates' questions as ways to reward students for helping the class run smoothly.) Students still cannot pass the class if they miss half of the time, but they can take time off after earning the leave. There are other things I have planned that I'm excited about, but that's all speculative. From watching things thus far, it looks like accruing leave time is motivating a core group of students already, even though we haven't met.

Note: My thanks to CCPhysicist, whose comment on my last entry about policy (and specifically an interesting extension of Bayesian probability to matching personal judgments to predictions about a population's judgment) gives me some ideas on my own classes. There are apparently a range of techniques that try to match personal judgments to predictions of a population (e.g., the information pump technique) and now a paper called A Truth-Serum for Non-Bayesians. I love discovering and learning about this, but I have things I need to do... ah, intellectual distractions.

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Posted in Personal on May 24, 2008 10:38 PM |