Wednesday 21 November 2018

Different modes of learning

Two months down, I'm motoring through my Human Physiology course and put out the first quiz "Molecules, Cells and Homeostasis" at the end of October. I call it a quiz, because 'test', let alone 'exam' induces an anxiety attack in many students. I cannot, in all conscience, rubber-stamp an academic qualification for someone who has just been present in class. Where do you draw the line? Get your qual just by paying the registration fee? But I do appreciate that many of the Pharmacy Tech students are only mildly interested in how their body works in health; and slightly less interested in how it all goes wrong in their customers in the pharmacy. And if they were really good at academic skills like the 4 Rs - reading, retaining, remembering, regurgitating - then they wouldn't be in The Institute for a 2 year Cert. My policy is to try to make the course informative and on message but also pop in a few funny anecdotes and do my best to fail nobody. Embarrassingly, I suspect that the only things students retain are the funny stories.

The Quizzes in PT Hum.Phys. are MCQs. If you answer all the Qs at random [arragh have a punt why don't you], you'll get ±20% which halfway to the 40% pass mark. The "Molecules, Cells and Homeostasis" quiz is on about 20 hours of lecturers supported by a few hundred PPT slides. That's a daunting amount of information to crush if you were crap at school and just flicking through the slides again won't help embed anything in the bonce. For each section of the course, therefore, I've constructed an Executive Summary: 2 sides of A4 with bullet-points, cartoons and lists. If you can learn this, I say, then you can pass the assessment. You may not get 100% but you'll defo pass.

Well dang-and-blast-it didn't three of the students fail the g-dam quiz. Indeed, one of them had come up to me afterwards saying she knew she hadn't done well and what to do? I had a rather nifty idea about alternative ways of learning and sent them an e-mail requesting-and-requiring the three quiz-booters to submit a mind-map of a typical human cell making an inventory of the bits-and-bobs including short notes about the function of each. If they did that, then I'd shift the mark up to a bare pass. That way, the students who had actually passed the quiz-assessment wouldn't be disadvantaged. This offer was only taken up by one of the three, the one who talked to me and who had indeed secured the lowest mark in the class. Here it is:
Do I care that this wasn't not carried out under exam conditions?
I do not
Do I think this diagram is as a good as my (wordy) Exec.Summ.?
Better for many
Am I impressed by the battery of coloured felt-tips?
I am
Am I concerned that lysosomes don't get parity-of-esteem with peroxisomes
A little
Would I recommend this as a learning tool?
I would
Is that the end of the catechism?
It is

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