TITLE: Course Post-Mortem and Project Notebooks AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 10, 2011 4:32 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I'm pretty much done with my grading for the semester. All that's left is freezing the grades and submitting them. Intelligent Systems is a project course, and I have students evaluate their and their teammates' contributions to the project. One part of the evaluation is to allocate the points their team earns on the project to the team members according to the quality and quantity of their respective contributions. As I mentioned to the class earlier in the semester, point allocations from semester to semester tend to exhibit certain features. With few exceptions: All that adds up to me being rather satisfied with the grades that fall out of the grinder at the end of the semester. One thing that has not changed since I last taught this course ten years ago or so is that most students don't like the idea of an engineer's notebook. I ask each student to maintain a record their of their notes while working on the project along with a weekly log intended to be a periodic retrospective of their work and progress, their team's work and progress, and the problems they encounter and solve along the way. Students have never liked keeping notebooks. Writing doesn't seem to be a habit we develop in our majors, and by the time they reach their last ultimate or penultimate semester, the habit of not writing is deeply ingrained. One thing that may have changed in the last decade: students seem more surly at being asked to keep a notebook. In the past, students either did write or didn't write. This year, for the most part, students either didn't write or didn't write much except to say how much they didn't like being asked to write. I have to admire their honesty at the risk of being graded more harshly for having spoken up. (Actually, I am proud they trust me enough to still grade them fairly!) I can't draw a sound conclusion from one semester's worth of data, but I will watch for a trend in future semesters. One thing that did change this semester: I allowed students to blog instead of maintaining a paper notebook. I was surprised that only two students took me up on the offer. Both ended up with records well above the average for the class. One of the students treated his blog a bit more formally than I think of an engineer's notebook, but the other seemed to treat much as he would have a paper journal. This was a win, one I hope to replicate in the future. The Greeks long ago recorded that old habits die hard, if at all. In the future, I will have to approach the notebook differently, including more and perhaps more persuasive arguments for it up front and more frequent evaluation and feedback during the term. I might even encourage or require students to blog. This is 2011, after all. -----