Teaching Internship – Week 5

We’re now about on third of the way through the semester, and it has been flying. The first part of this class session focused again on quantitative nonexperimental designs. Dr. M started the class with an article about SAT scores and educational spending. It was a trend study, and the point of the article was that, over the past decade or so, educational spending has gone up, but the average SAT score has gone down. He used this article to illustrate that you should always question what you read and what you see, particularly when there are graphs or charts that accompany text. In this case, students were able to come up with a variety of questions and issues that were relevant to the interpretation of the data.

The next part of the class focused on sampling. Dr. M started by going over terminology:

  • participants
  • subjects
  • sample
  • population
  • elements
  • probability vs. non-probability

He then gave an example about political polls, where the average sample is 1000-1500, but it is deemed to represent the entire American voting population. He used the example to illustrate that past 1500, the margin of error doesn’t really change much, so it’s not necessary to use a larger sample to generalize.

The next topic broke down sampling into the two types (probability vs. non-probability) and briefly covered the 4 specific types of probability sampling and some of the types of non-probability.

Finally, we rounded out the evening by introducing descriptive statistics, specifically central tendency (mean, median, and mode) and variability (dispersion, variance, standard deviation and range). Dr. M went over the formula for calculating SD, but I’m not sure how effective this was. Frankly, it was the end of a class where a variety of new material had been discussed, and it was clear that the students were tired.

Before leaving, Dr. M gave the students a homework assignment. Each student was given the same  set of completed surveys and instructed to use it to create an SPSS dataset. After creating the dataset, they should use the data to practice calculating frequencies and measures of central tendency and dispersion.

I had a lot to do this week after class. Dr. M gave me a copy of the midterm that he used the last time he taught the course five years ago. I had to update the exam and the study guide, based on the new edition of the textbook and the material we covered. I also had to do the homework assignment that the students were doing, prepare more detailed instructions for them, send out the instructions, and create a quiz in Blackboard to assess whether they were able to successfully navigate the assignment.

This has been my busiest week so far. Creating the homework responses, anticipating and responding to questions, and creating the Blackboard quiz took me several hours. Ironically, I made an error when I did my own data entry, and the questions I created for the quiz were multiple choice. Consequently, I had a question without a completely accurate answer. This caused questions from the two students who did the assignment earliest, and it taught me a big lesson. Check your work… and then check again!

Creating the midterm exam was another series of lessons for me. Wow. I truly did not have an appreciation for how difficult it is to create an objective exam that covers all the necessary content. Dr. M stressed the importance of having enough items to truly infer whether each student has mastered the material.  I worked on the exam, the answer key, and the study guide for almost two full days plus an hour or two here and there. Altogether, I know I must have spent 20 hours on it, but the entire exercise was really helpful. Not only did it give me some experience with the task of preparing an exam, it also made me much more familiar and comfortable with the content.

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