I should preface this with the fact that I’m watching Alice in Wonderland with the girls right now. I’m not sure what kind of effect that will have on what I’m writing. It seems appropriate as there’s weird data to think about.
What’s getting clearer and clearer is how to think about the upcoming papers to present in the next few weeks. In particular, I met with Eric today and we talked through what we had in our data and what it means. We each have a data set (mine much smaller, as is generally the rule when I’m working with Eric) that probes for students’ ideas about physics and psychology respectively. In the psych data, students overall do better in their coursework if they perform better on an assessment of their views of psychology as a science. However, there are two different conditions for this instrument: one is taken by asking the students their own views; the other is taken with the instruction to describe the professor’s views. It turns out that there is a stronger correlation between the instrument score and grade for students taking the instrument in the professor condition. That is, students recognize that they think differently than their professor, and when they do, their understandings of what their professor thinks is a better indication of how they’ll do in the course than what they themselves think.
In physics, my data (which Eric crunched — the man is a wiz with SPSS, something I don’t even have on my desktop) I have a cute little instrument looking at typical student misconceptions in physics. Students do better on the instrument overall when they are answering from the perspective of the professor, if (and only if) they are taking the course in a traditional classroom. If they are taking the course online, they do worse in the professor condition. So, it’s a similar result to the psych data, except that when the student doesn’t have a real, in person professor to think about, they don’t apparently think about the idea as well.
My data set is small, and I need more to make myself really feel like this is right. But I think it is. And, it is really exciting data to have. This shows that students not only can consider ideas different than their own, but when they do consider ideas different from their own, they do better in the course or on a particular instrument.
This all speaks to a description of the conceptual ecology, which I need to expand more. But, once we do this, I think we have a pretty powerful piece. In addition, I have Ryan going into an intro course and doing some ethnography to actually describe what takes place in the traditional course versus the online course. So, then, we can qualitatively coordinate the findings with something other than just a label.
Then there’s the communities of practice paper with John. I’ll take the paper that’s mostly his and draft some slides while he’s driving up and down the East Coast for spring break.
Then there’s the Crossroads paper for NARST. We’ve dared each other to make just a few slides, provocative, compelling, and unforgettable, and then let the conversation go from there.
Then there’s the UConn Physics talk. A few more slides to add and a couple of points to refine, but that one’s mostly done.
So, it’s all a bit surreal and all good. I’m at a place where, in spite of other things coming up (remember the 240 8th graders, etc.) this all seems doable. As long as none of the presentations instigate an Alice in Wonderland “Off with his head!” scenario.