Requiring Teaching Items

Last semester I required my students to create three lessons on important course content. By asking the students to take on the role of teacher I raised the bar for their level of understanding on those three topics. The quickest way to discover where a student is faking it is to ask them to explain their understanding of an idea.

I allowed students to select their own topic from among a list of learning objectives. Some students chose a broad approach, while others zoomed in on a specific idea with specific examples. Overall these teaching items were quite popular, and students did a good job. The tasks were fairly open ended so there was lots of room for creativity.

Texting Lesson

The first teaching item was a texting lesson where students carried out a tutoring session in the format of a phone text.

The submission was typset using LaTeX at Overleaf. I sent the students to a page with basic setup instructions and then turned them loose. There was definitely a bit of a learning curve here. The LaTeX syntax was new to nearly all of my students, but they caught on quickly. During class I showed them websites that would help them to typeset the math such as mathurl.com or desmos.com. I specifically warned them not to wait until the last minute because they were sure to encounter some technical difficulties along the way. A few students got part way through the work and decided to start over because they couldn't figure out the errors, but for the most part I had very few complaints. Moreover, several students remarked that this was their favorite assignment of the semester.

Desmos Activity

The second teaching item was to create an learning activity at teacher.desmos.com.