I enjoy arriving at work by 7:15 am. It gives me time to walk around the Art building to discover the many new student and faculty works of art that are showcased in the different galleries. It will be interesting to see on April 23 the finalized versions of the sculptures which students did (including of your truly!). You can learn more about that project by clicking this link. It has been an (In)Sightful academic year for me! Thank you, Amy Cropper and Saskia de Rooy, for expanding my artistic horizons.

I look forward later today to a “check in” phone call from my consulting partner, Greg Schneider, in preparation for our meeting next week. Being a partner in Waukesha’s Schneider Consulting (here is our web page) has been invaluable in opening my eyes and horizons to corporate culture.

My partnership, long-standing friendship, and interactions with Greg and Jane Schneider always help me step back, rebalance, slow down, recenter, and put into context what I want to accomplish with the talents I have or that I  need to develop. Greg and I started working at Carroll College on the day. Here he is in 1978 with another Walter Young Center colleague!

Time to review, cull, revise, or delete more of my earlier blog writings. I’m going to focus today on pieces dealing with reflection, refocus, and redirection. Apparently I wrote at least 28 such pieces. I may ask student research assistant Kristen to pull them together into an e-book format.

From May 2017…

Two books to read laid out before me: David Pogue’s Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Show You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life and Jocelyn K. Glei’s Unsubscribe: How to Kill email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real work Done. Each lends themselves to reading and learning when one has short “down times” for learning.

I should be finishing the grading of the exam I gave yesterday while I proctor the exam I am now giving. Yesterday Leo the Grading Dog and I devoted five hours to the uncompleted task–and decided that we needed sleep to continue. I playfully attempted to engage former students on Facebook in a crowdsourcing grading “experiment.” Alas, a lot of LOL’s. About as successful as my tabled crowdfunding proposal:).

Instead, I am reviewing all my past WordPress posts, Tweets, and Facebook Photos as I plan for major projects next semester. I am contemplating pulling all that material together in a “Best of Curious David” e-book. I hope to engage in extensive self-publishing with students, teach a research seminar dealing with “brain fitness/training” apps and interventions, and pull together 40 years of Carroll-related archival documents that really should not be forgotten. My physical office environment could be challenging as the Rankin Hall reconstruction begins–necessitating a moving from the office.

Here are some previous (unedited–I have not checked the links’ viability) musings about final exams. Clearly the fact that I pondered these questions before suggests that I still haven’t come up with a clear answer–yet I see value comprehensive, multifaceted finals despite the costs of time to grade them.

Final Reflections on Final Exams  Dec 20, 2009

The last final exam has been graded–the grades submitted electronically.

Final exams began on Thursday this year, but my finals were the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Moreover, I chose to do something new within each final exam. These innovations resulted in my not having exams (newly made) ready until the day before I administered them. Such are academic opportunity costs!

This semester I introduced innovations in each of my classes, some common across each class and others unique to each course. Common to each class, I chose to complete the formal part of instruction a week before the end of the semester. I used the remaining scheduled class time for review and for preparing students for the final exam.

For each class, I wrote a blog about the class and invited students to respond to the blog. My primary goal in that assignment was not to increase “hit rate” on my blog site! Rather, I’d like to increase the likelihood that students subsequently might recognize how easy it is to comment responsibly to something “published” on the web. Though it is too early to say whether that goal was met, I was very pleased by the thoughtful comments from my PSY101 students.

Unique to PSY101, I also asked students in my Introductory Psychology class to visit a psychology podcast site and critique for me two episodes. Since I am exploring whether (video) podcasting is something I wish to do (is Audacity the answer?), I found their feedback quite helpful. Their final exam was the easiest to produce (50 multiple choice questions covering the fundamental concepts I cover in the course and 50 points of terminology questions)–and easiest to grade —in part because they provided  compelling evidence that they knew the material. They were a fun group to teach and to learn with!

Unique to PSY205, I invited the students (once they had completed their 13 page, cumulative final exam —50 multiple choice, 30 points of terminology, 20 problems requiring students to indicate what data analysis was appropriate—to accept the Robin the Christmas Newf extra credit challenge.

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Though I don’t believe in giving extra credit (it undermines intrinsic motivation), I was curious about their abilities to recognize flaws in published articles (the same article I gave my PSY303 class to critique for their final) and poorly designed surveys (the same survey administered to a sample of Carroll employees last week to assess the quality of the workplace). Though only one student (almost) identified the published data analysis error–and none recognized that the response scales of the survey had categories which were not mutually exclusive (and hence potentially invalidate most statistical break-downs), I was pleased that several students rose up to the challenge. And, more importantly to me, a number of students from this class clearly have a mastery of which data analysis to use. But will they have that same degree of mastery the next time I see them–or will they be singing this swan song again?

Unique to PSY303, I gave students in my Experimental Social Psychology course in advance two published journal articles. I also gave them a sense of the kinds of questions I would be asking them about the “Scrooge Effect” and “God is Watching You” articles. I elected to assess students this way (rather than over course content—e.g. names, terminology, theories, concepts) since a major emphasis of this course involved thoughtfully reading and critiquing published research through weekly student presentations and discussion. I was most impressed by the thoughtful, reflective, insightful responses of almost every student–though none noticed the data analysis flaw.

Why bother giving final exams? Aren’t the 3 to 5 regular exams I give throughout the semester enough? It surely would be so much easier for me to give all multiple-choice questions which students respond to on a computer readable form. However, choosing the easy route would eliminate my opportunity to both assess and to teach during final examination period.

How odd it is that course evaluations occur before final exams are given. Wouldn’t a fairer evaluation of a course (and of the instructor) require that students have taken and received feedback from their final examinations?  How frustrating it is not to be able to go over the final with my students and get from them suggestions for improvement in a timely fashion.

Maybe finals should be the last week of class and feedback should be during finals week. Alternatively, maybe a component of course evaluations should be a reflective writing piece the first day of classes.  Maybe the first day of classes should be an exam covering the course prerequisites!

Too much grading leads me to think like this and hallucinate about Sugar Plums.

Sugar Plums

Happy Holidays from Curious David!

December 2014 Musings about Final Exams

The Newf

It was a foggy 5:30 a.m. morning when I let the Newf out for her morning “duties.” One of many good reasons for driving carefully to Carroll this Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. I surely would NOT like to hit another deer–nor would Santa or my car.

Deer Me

I can still see fog outside my Rankin classroom. Thirty-seven years ago I was in this very building giving a sample lecture illustrating how I teach as part of my two-day job interview to become a faculty member at then-called Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I still have a copy of that presentation–and I remain at my first and only job for better or for worse. So much has changed–buildings, enrollment, technology, the institution’s name, the organizational structure.  I feel obligated to protect traditions and overriding institutional historical values, but there are fewer and fewer here that remember them. So many of my former mentoring faculty and staff friends have moved on through retirement or from life. I miss their wisdom but try to preserve their gifts to Carroll.

Ghosts of Christmas's Past

And here I sit proctoring an 8:00 a.m.Saturday morning final exam covering “Statistics and Experimental Design” taken by students several of whose relatives (aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters) were former students or advisees of mine. An_Outline_of_Basic__Cover_for_Kindle

There are times when they look and behave very young and I recognize that I am 65-years old. Many other times Assistantsthey keep me young with their energy, willingness to learn, and playfulness. I feel that way especially in the present of my student research assistants–four of whom are graduating this year.

It has been a rough semester. I continue to find challenging teaching three consecutive seventy-minute courses in a row with 10 minute breaks even when two of the courses are the same. And this year I am co-chairing the Planning and Budget Committee (with a delightful colleague and poet BJ Best).

It has been the Dickens of a task: The Wurst of Times and the Best of Times. Younger colleagues like BJ, though, and the fewer and fewer remaining colleagues from my past reinforce my willingness to remain here and make a difference before departing.

Best of Times, the Wurst of Times

The chimes just sounded. 10:00 a.m. Eight students remaining. Very good students among which several, should they wish, might join Dr. Simpson’s Neighborhood as student research assistants.

Carroll’s 2014-2015 theme is “Time.” I just finished reading David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. Time to start grading so that I can finishing reading The Book of Strange New Things.

 

No longer can I ignore the emails from campus indicating that Fall semester will soon begin. Nor can I put off too much longer that manuscript review which is due September 3. Time to doff my invisibility cloak and return to campus rejuvenated, reinvigorated, enriched by extensive reading, and with a clear (closely guarded) plan of what I want to accomplish over the next five years. Invite me to coffee if you’d like to trade closely guarded secrets!

I did an unusually large amount of reading this summer—at least 20 novels including Stieg Larson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Richard Russo’s Straight Man and his Empire Falls, Rebecca Newberg Goldstein’s 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, David Lodge’s Thinks; Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, Lesley Kagen’s Whistling in the Dark, Benjamin Taylor’s The Book of Getting Even, and Brady Udall’s magnificent The Lonely Polygamist. Among the nonfiction books I found especially interesting, provocative, or intellectully stimulating were Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of A Radical Price, Nicoholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, and two books by social psychologist Ellen Langer, The Power of Mindful Learning and Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. More about each of these good reads can be found elsewhere. What else should I read?

The other day I decided to read cover-to-cover and, yes, word-by word the official 2010 – 2011 Carroll University catalog. How things have changed since I joined the Carroll community! I wonder if I have changed to the same degree (but please don’t send me photos of me from 1977).

Of the 120 individuals listed as Carroll faculty for 2010 – 2011 (included are administrators and librarians with “faculty status”) I am now seventh-most senior in years of continuous service. Three of those faculty listed who are more senior than I plan to make 2010 – 2011 their last year here (or so I have been told). Almost half the faculty and most administrators have only been at Carroll since 2006.

It might make an interesting exercise in my statistics class to use this data (faculty colleague, academic degrees earned, institutions from which degrees were earned, years of continuous service, academic rank) to better see who we are and how we have changed. Hmm, carpe diem (seize the teaching moment)–I think I may have developed the content of my first Lab in PSY205 “Statistics and Experimental Design” on September 1.

What are the responsibilities of a senior faculty, such as I, who is such an increasingly scarce commodity? I’ve seen far too many former colleagues across these 32 years at my stage of faculty development become bitter, angry, despondent, frustrated or exhausted, as they tried to do too much (serving on every committee and task force and accreditation visit) or resisted institutional change they found inappropriate. How can one protect the integrity of an institution one has grown to love, preserve traditions deserving of being kept, and be guided and anchored by the collective wisdom and core values of Carroll’s founders–and yet be open to new ideas and supportive of younger colleagues who need the opportunity to make mistakes and to have the same growth opportunities as did I?

In a week I’ll have an opportunity to have lunch with members of Carroll’s 25-year Club (faculty, staff, and emeritus) who have served Carroll for at least 25 years. I enjoy that annual celebration with these campus colleagues, faculty and non-faculty, who have been mentors, friends, teachers and role models to me. How many lives these dedicated individuals have affected–and continue to do so as they’ve shaped and lived core institutional values across the years and have produced a rich collective legacy of traditions, successes, failures, and reasons for celebration. How they have enriched my life and inspired me.


Posted by Professor David Simpson

Professor of Psychology, Carroll University (USA), Lover of Dogs, Reading, Teaching and Learning. Looking for ways to enhance cross-global communication and to apply technology learning tools. Interested in brain health maintenance, brain fitness training, and truth in advertising.