Course Review Time – What Works Best? #physicsed

It’s closing in on that time… the dreaded end-of-the-year, when we finish our standard curriculum and begin to intermix “additional topics” of student interest in with review for our standardized final exam.  But how do you keep 25 to 30 students productively across various topics based on individual needs at varying levels of aptitude?

student_girl_reading_on_floor_hg_clr I’ve tried a number of techniques… we cut questions out of old standardized exams and paste them onto unit-specific pages, using these unit-specific pages for practice.  The students not only review the key topics, but also see the range of questions asked in previous years before diving into problem practice.

I’ve given previous exams, with students working through them at their own pace, scoring their exams, then working with me to jointly develop and execute an individualized action plan to attack their areas for improvement before repeating the process.

I’ve incorporated clicker question reviews.  I’ve had students develop their own questions.  We’ve jumped headfirst into hands-on lab exercises requiring knowledge of several “units” tied in together, and we’ve worked through projects to examine applications of physics in the real world.  Each week students perform a different online assignment on one of our key topics, coupled with video podcast reviews of 10-15 minutes in length, in a flipped classroom approach.

With all these methods, implemented in a variety of configurations, I still haven’t found a review method I’m thrilled with.  Nor even satisfied with.  Without fail, the students who least need the review get the most out of the time, and the students who are in dire need of review find ways to avoid strong engagement.

One proposal for this year is to have all students take a practice exam, which is graded with separate scores for each key topic (in the vein of SBG).  Students in need of extra help in any unit are assigned chapters to read along with a problem set from either the APlusPhysics review book or a stand-alone question set.  Students most in need of review are assigned the most work, and students with the least need of review can finish up their work assignments more quickly, leaving the instructor more time with the struggling students.  Each week students engage in another practice exam, again working to build familiarity with the questions, with classes interspersed between online question reviews, practice exams, and instructor-led topical review discussions and guided practice.

I don’t expect to find a magic bullet that addresses all situations, and talking to other teachers I find this to be a very common issue as well.  I’d love to hear what you’ve tried – what’s worked, what hasn’t, and open this question up to the experience of others!

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