Comprehensive Assessment Tracking System

Drill and Kill vs. Journaling

DWAXT23951's picture
Dwain Desbien
ANGNX09261's picture
Angela McClure
levxq41621's picture
Levi Torrison
FIOZM75331's picture
Fiona Lihs
Monday, August 20, 2018 to Friday, September 21, 2018
What is the Need/Assessment?: 

Does journal writing impact students' ability to DO a math problem?  Is less more?  Do we really need to assign 15-30 problems after each class period?

Describe the necessity for this change: 

I am looking for ways to incorporate more writing and critical thinking in my courses without losing the "how to" perform mathematical operations and procedures.  

Describe what will be (or was) implemented to affect change: 

I have been teaching calculus III since Fall 2008.  In Spring 2013, students used a workbook I created with practice problems after each section.  These homework sets would be collected the next class period, and a grading frenzy would occur (class size is typically 30-32 students in calculus III).  In Spring 2018, I decided to not collect these homework packets and have students only journal.  See previous CATS to explain journaling in my course.

Interpret, compare and describe the results of the change: 

From Spring 2013 - Spring 2016, I have taught 7 different sections of calculus III which includes 187 different students.  Of 187 students, 18.1% of them failed the 1st exam.  Note:  Calculus III has a different level of student - typically these students have also taken chemistry, physics and engineering.  These students understand how to study. Spring 2018 - I had 100% of my 31 students pass the 1st exam.  I used the same workbook and PowerPoints, too.  

After analyzing the information, what are the next steps?: 

This data does NOT mean journaling is the answer to having a 100% passing rate.  What this shows me is that I do not need to collect homework assignments after each class.  Journaling does NOT take away from a student's ability to solve a math problem.  If anything, journaling enhances their ability along with gaining better writing skills and being able to explain/critically think through the process of the mathematics.   


As a math instructor at EMCC for 16 years, I have always believed students must practice.  They have to do 20+ problems outside of class in order to be able to DO problems on exams/quizzes.  From working with physics and chemsitry faculty over the years and seeing what they do with journals, I have been hesitant to try this.  "Math is different.  Math is skill based, and you don't get good at this unless you practice over and over again," I would think to myself.  It took me 16 years to get to this "aha" moment, and I am so excited about this.  The more I learn about how we all learn, the more I want to try new things outside of the "norm" of mathematics instruction.  

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