"This year I feel that I have matured so much in your class. Besides learning so much about the world around me, I have also learned that I can be an important member of this society. If someone needs help, I can give them help; if I ask for help, I know that I shouldn’t have to worry to ask for it. I feel that your class has caused all of us to mature mentally." —Josh S., student
The students are seated in new groups around the lab tables at the back of the room. They have introduced themselves again, and are looking over the answer keys to see how they did. I’m wandering around, listening in.
“How did you get number three?”, Ben asks. “I set it up right, but I don’t see how you put the speed and time into the equation to get this answer.”
Sarah leans over and shows him her work. “Look, you made a mistake when you rearranged the equation to get distance on this side. You had to multiply by time to cancel it out on this side - you divided and that’s the problem.”
“Ah, that’s it. So when I multiply by time, I get the distance, right?”
These conversations are happening at every table. It goes on for twenty minutes as they plow through every problem on the sheet. I hand out a cover sheet with a rubric for self-evaluation and ask them to give themselves a grade for this homework. Excellent work consists of stamped homework that has complete, correct problems showing every step. With the answer keys, everyone should theoretically be able to do that. When some don’t, it lends itself to a conversation about what they want to get out of this course. And if any student doesn’t see how to grade himself or is trying to get away with a better grade than the work deserves, that also leads to a good conversation. At this early stage, it’s important to give them extensive feedback.
As each group finishes up, I hand out a single problem check-up, not for a grade, and collect it as they finish. When everyone has turned it in, I throw the correct solution on the board.
“If you didn’t get this answer, showing all these steps, you need more practice. If that’s the case, here is some optional homework that lets you practice the same level of difficulty. There are helpful hints on the back. I’ll have answer keys available tomorrow. It’s your choice whether you need to practice.”