This course used to have a 20% coursework component, introduced in
order to force the students to work continuously.
The weekly coursework resulted in a fairly heavy
workload during term-time (which the students hated) but
made exam revision very easy (which they loved). Overall, the
coursework element was perceived to be an excellent feature of the
course -- judging by the replies on the student questionnaires
handed out at the end of the course.
Unfortunately, various constraints made it impossible to continue
this very successful setup, facing me with the question of
how to get you to work for the course throughout term, rather than
adopting the "I don't have to work for this course because I can
simply cram at the end of term and revise by looking at past exam
papers" attitude that all lecturers (and me in particular) detest.
So, here is the deal:
- You are hereby told (yet again) that it is
essential to work continuously on the material presented in this
(and any other) lecture course. If you don't understand the concepts
presented in week 1 you will not understand what I talk about in week
2, etc. The best (only?) way to achieve this is to work through the
example sheets before the example/feedback class, to make sure you can
bombard me with questions about any issues that you don't understand.
There is little point in turning up for the example/feedback class
without having looked at the problem sheet beforehand -- there's not
enough time to do all the work in class.
- On each problem sheet I will identify a small number of
(sometimes substantial) questions that used to form the coursework.
The logic behind the selection of the questions is that they'll force
you to understand concepts that are essential to the understanding
of subsequent material.
- The (detailed) solutions to each problem sheet will be made available
at some suitable time after the example/feedback class (probably a
week later). At that point you should swap your nicely-written-up
solutions (written up at least as nicely as if you were to hand
them in to me) with another student and mark each other's work.
No need for a marking scheme, just check what's right and what's
wrong (and why!). In my experience, most students tend to work best
in small groups anyway so I don't think you'll have problems finding
people to swap work with. If you really have no mates, let me know
and I'll find you somebody (we'll do triangular swaps if there's
an odd number of students).
- I can see panic developing: Will the "grade" awarded by your
mates "count towards the exam"? No! There won't be a grade. You're
simply supposed to give each other feedback, and if there are any
disputes, I'm happy to act as judge. In fact, I'll be delighted to go back over
material in subsequent example/feedback classes if it turns out that
many of you struggled with the same problem (assuming I didn't
realise that during the example/feedback class itself). However,
I can only do this if I know what you struggled with and this
obviously requires you to have done the work.
- Now that the panic is gone, you'll obviously ask yourself why
you should bother with this. Surely it'll be easier to use the
example/feedback class to read the metro newspaper and exchange
gossip, and then use the
tried-and-tested "cramming for the exam" technique to "revise".
I obviously can't stop you from doing that but I can assure you that,
following the end of term, I will refuse to answer any questions
(about the course material or previous exam papers) from students
who do not have an (at least nearly) complete set of written-up
"coursework", with signs that the work was seen by and discussed
with somebody else. If you don't work, I won't either.
- Final question: "Hang on, you want us to do the questions,
write up the answers, exchange them with another student, mark
each other's work, and then discuss any mistakes/misconceptions
with him/her (and the lecturer)? This will take a lot of
time!" Answer: "Indeed -- I expect you to work hard for this course!" If you
check the UG handbook you'll find that you're supposed to anticipate
at least two hours of private study per lecture hour. Furthermore,
whatever time you invest on this during term time, you'll save
during the exam revision. (Note that this will free up valuable time
to catch up with any past issues of the metro newspaper that you
didn't have time to read during the examples class!).