Monday, January 26, 2009

Chapters 1 and 2 from talking about leaving

In chapters 1 and 2 of TAL there are many things that stuck out to me.

On page 17 of TAL "far fewer former engineering majors (11.4%) switched into the humanities, and far more switched into business majors (13.9%) than from other SME majors." I find this interesting since some of my friends in engineering have graduated with an engineering degree, but they have since switched to business and are currently getting an MBA, and they have no plans to work as an engineer at all.

The authors have found no significat differences between switchers and non switchers. Both groups have shown similar concerns for the SME program, and both end up graduating with a similar range of GPA's. I find this very interesting, since we have created a course that is meant to help prepare engineering students for math classes they will take later on. And some of these students may be at risk, but this says to me that the at risk students are not necisarilly the ones that will leave.

The four greatest concerns for switching are 1. lack or loss of interest in science, 2. belief that a non-SME major holds more interest, or offers a better education 3. poor teaching by SME faculty 4. Feeling overwhelmed by the pace and load of curriculum demands.

On page 39 there is an interesting student quote that says "It's the way this gentleman teaches. He believes in grading on a curve and slaughtering people in the first exam. You lose everyone 'cause no one's encouraging you to stay - the professor is very unapproachable. I think you lose a ton of good people. Why sit here and get slaughtered when they can go to another department and have some interaction with the professor, and some encouragement? (Male white science non-switcher)." When I started here at OSU I had to take some pre-requisit classes since I did not have my undergrad in Electrical Engineering. One of the first classes I had graded on the curve. The only grades in the course were quizes and tests. The first test I took in this course I failed. So I started to freak out since I had to make A's and B's in all my classes in order to continue in engineering. I kept saying that if I failed any of my classes I would switch back to Mathematics. However what I didn't realize is that it doesn't matter how well you do in on a test it matters how well you do compared to everyone else in the course. I don't think this is a good thing we are teaching our future engineers, and I think that grading on the curve makes it so a student does not know where they stand or if they should get out and re take it later.

In chapter 2, there are alot of interesting quotes from students about why they entered an SME major. What sticks out to me is most of the quotes state that they were influenced by someone else. Depending on how the students were influenced weather by force or strong encouragement to go into the field the students reacted positively or negatively. Now through some of the negative influence the students would stick around in the SME majors, and through some of the positive influence the students would realize that they should be in the SME majors. This turns out to further prove the point that there are very insiginficant differences between SME switchers and non-switchers.

Some interesting points from chapter 2 are the following.

Two quotes from a students on page 56
"Well, my dad's an engineer... I really liked physics, but I thought about changing to linquistics once, and he said, 'how will you ever get a job with that?' (male white science non-swithcer).
"I just thought my dad was pushing me too much. He and my mom are both at I.B.M. and really wanted me to go into computer science. I mean my father really pushed computers. I've always been a liberal arts person right back to elementary school. And I knew when i signed up for a Pascal course, and the first day i didn't understand anything. And I tried myself out in the liberal arts, and i really loved it." Female white science switcher)
The intersting thing about these quotes is both are negative experiences where one students has an interest in something other than SME and sticks with it because his Dad questions the ability to get a job, and the other student switches partly because of the fact her parents were pushing her to much.

TAL also mentions how students are preasured financially to stay in an SME major because someone else is paying for their degree.

An interesting note socially is the fact that TAL found that females have an easier time switching out of an SME major than males. To me this means that there are still people that maybe should switch out that have not.

On page 64 a student says "I am hopefully going to teach in a completel ydifferent manner from my own math teachers, just because they were all so boring. I want to make my classes fun, so that kids will enjoy math." (Female white mathematics non-switcher)
Later on in TAL it talks about how students make uninformed decisions to enter an SME field. I feel like these two situations occured to me directly. I went into Math Education because I wanted to make a difference since I had had so many bad mathematics teachers. But I thought I could teach much better than them and was not completely aware of everything I would have to deal with as a teacher. I had thought all you had to do was get up in front of the students and talk and they would learn as long as you were able to give good examples of using the math. However I was completely wrong and did not figure that out until I started teaching my first year. Now I am back in school and getting a degree in something different.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Students perception on "hard"

In ch1 of Talking about leaving on page 10 there is the following quote "In a study of 1,200 students taking Chemistry 116 at Purdue University, they found that the 'difficulty' of the class was very differently perceived by the students who took it, and by the faculty who taught it." My background in education has allowed me to witness this first hand. I taught Geometry to high school students. Mathematics, when I was in High School, had always come naturally to me. So when a student asked me if something was hard I would say no, however for the students grasping concepts in Geometry is something that is very hard. The students have to think in a new way contrary to what they have been previously taught in math classes.