Posted by: John Colby | Wednesday May 28 2008

Exam tomorrow

For my students – not me. I have to invigilate and then mark it all.

A new module, 170 or so of them, for the second semester. They said they couldn’t “do maths” when they started. Now they’ve got to the stage of being able to perform, by hand (important that!) calculations involving levels of significance in data. Which I like to think is pretty good, especially as they’ve got there in twelve teaching weeks.

We have sensible spreadsheets as coursework, we have people turning up for support and revision sessions outside normal teaching, we have people being able to identify mathematical trends from sets of figures, look at probability to determine parameters for service level agreements, understand that statistics isn’t all that exact and is open to interpretation and most importantly they now have the confidence to say “I’m OK at maths” and not “I can’t do maths”

I didn’t set out to produce mathematical geniuses, merely to give their battered confidence a lift and prove to them that they could do something that they previously found impossible – or at least unthinkable.

This is not a miracle – they’ve done it by sheer hard work. And it’s been great to teach them.

And yes, I know the exam’s tomorrow and I could be counting chickens before they’re hatched, but I really do have confidence in them. But if some of them don’t “get it” and have to resit then they can at least identify where they need to improve. Resits are in August/September – and they’ll have one of my intensive programmes to go through before then. They’ve worked in the past – no reason why they shouldn’t again.

One of my colleagues calls some of my teaching techniques “tough love” but it seems to work. With the really decent pass rate on their most recent assignment I think it does, anyway.

I won’t be able to report on the final results until after the exam boards as we have to go through the complete approval process. It’s a wait for the students, but necessary for the due process for transparency.

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