03 December 2016

New assignment: an improvement

The denouement came late. But it came! I have now seen what my students have made of my assignment. And I'm pleased! Of course there was a wide range in how well students had done, but this time few had done badly (there is always at least one) and quite a few who had done very well. What we ask students to do is first plot up a data set of modern foraminifera assemblages in several ways; the forams are from seven different environments, and the various plots might or might not show these as separate. Then we ask them some questions about foraminifera ecology and methods of environmental reconstruction using forams.  The acid test of this assignment is the question in which we ask the students to plot up a set of fossil foram assemblages too; do they fall into areas covered by a specific environment? If so, they are most likely from that environment. Palaeo-environment established, mission accomplished! The problem is a bit that not many students like to be robust doing this; typically, they use only one plot to base their conclusions on. 

 One of the plots the students are asked to make

Last year we had only one student who made all the plots and come to a robust answer, but this year almost 30% had done it. So I'm happy! And the use of MATLAB seemed not to have hindered them. I had made a little instruction video, and that was watched by half the students! Some of them had watched it five times. Making that file was a fortunate decision. I think the assignment has been future-proofed! Now let's hope I can teach it again next year...

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