MSE 220 Fall 2014

No Lectures, no exams, and no graded homework - but you will learn much more...

Course Description:
This section of MSE 220 will be taught in a similar format to what I taught in one of the sections n Fall 2013 but quite different from the traditional approach that is taught in the other sections.  Instead of meeting 4 times a week, we will meet twice a week for 2 hours each (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:30-5:30), with a third (optional) hour after each class for office hours and project group work (from 5:30-6:30) in the same room.  There will not be any formal lecture but rather group work and guided inquiry work. Homework will be given and you will be expected to read the book. The syllabus will be slightly reordered but all of the topics will be the same as all MSE 220 sections. The syllabus from F13 can be accessed on the menu to the right to give you an idea of what the course structure will look like.  
There will be a strong deemphasis on grades and there will not be any midterm or final exams.  I want students to learn, not focus on grades.  I believe that the role of the University is to educate students, not to rank students. I also believe that it is important for students to have the opportunity to embrace failure on their path to learning, without being penalized in their grade.

I have been able to work with Wiley, the publisher of Callister’s 9th edition textbook, “Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction” to allow us to use an electronic version of the book, at a very reasonable price, with the MIT annotation system, .
You will all have to purchase the e-book on a special Wiley site:
This site will offer you two choices, the e-book by itself for $59.50  or you can choose to purchase a binder ready, loose leaf version, for $99.50 (plus shipping). The Amazon hard cover price for a new book is $201.36 and the Amazon Kindle Edition is $79.50.  The Amazon binder ready version is $135.19. The publisher prices are even higher. Hence, this is a really good deal.  You will get to keep the e-book (I think that this is a Vital Bookshelf book.  It can be read on Mac, PC, IOS, or Android) or the binder ready version, as well as access the entire text at during the term.  
You MUST choose one of these two options in order to get access to the MIT site.  Without access to the site you will not be able to earn the part of the course grade based on the annotations to the text. Everyone is required to purchase this version of the book so that you can participate in our crowdsourced reading of the book and get credit for this very important part of the course. The book will be posted on where you will annotate  (ask and answer question, fill in missing parts, rephrase, etc) sentences of the book and read the annotations of the other students.  

Below are two short videos that explain what we did in the Fall 2013 version of the course:
Some History:
I have been teaching MSE 220 or similar versions since 1996.  Last Fall I used an approach that is the result of years of research in the science of learning.  It combines peer teaching and active learning methods that were first developed by Professor Eric Mazur at Harvard.  He is arguably the first to use audience response systems for education in the World. This was in 1994. They are now known as "clickers". He also wrote a book called "Peer Instruction" where he championed the idea that the best person to teach someone a concept was the person sitting next to them. I learned about this in 1996 and was the first faculty member to use a clicker system (wired TI-83 calculators and some software) in a lecture on the UM campus.  I was also the first to reject it because the technology got in the way of learning while teaching a traditional lecture.  It has taken me many years to realize that traditional lecture has little or no value in education.  Two years ago I did an experiment in MSE 220 where I gave my traditional lecture on Mondays and Fridays but did not lecture on Wednesdays.  On Wednesdays I had the students work on active learning and peer teaching activities for the entire 50 minute session.  Then I tagged question on the exams that were based on the Wednesday preparation so that I could compare student performance to those exam questions that were based on the traditional preparation. The results were very interesting.  Students performed 10-19 points better (the median score based on 100 points) on those questions that were based on the active learning/peer teaching pedagogy.

After seeing those results I have realized that I needed to find a very different approach to teaching.    Eric Mazur also happens to work in the same research area as me - ultrafast laser solid interaction.  I have known Eric for a long time and when I ran into him at the Materials Research Society meeting in Boston in November, 2012, we started talking about my most recent teaching experiment.  He told me about his new approach to teaching were he has completely eliminated lectures as well as exams.  The next day I visited Eric at Harvard and went to his class.  It was amazing.  When I returned to Michigan I wrote a proposal to try and develop is similar approach to teaching MSE 220 in Fall 2013.  I have since visited Eric in February and went to two more of his classes and spent  three days talking to his instructional staff.  I also visited him in April to learn even more.  The students who have been through this approach have all told me that they have never enjoyed a course more - and never worked harder.  They actually like doing their homework.  

My goal is simple.  I want to inspire my students to want to learn and give them the opportunity to grasp concepts and the mindset needed to solve engineering problems that involve materials. Hence, this course is being offered in this new format. I am going to emulate Eric's class as much as possible and see if it will produce similar results in Materials Science and Engineering.

In-Class Work:
We will be using an advanced, bring your own device, clicker system called LearningCatalytics to deliver questions during class time. These questions will be focused on concepts and examples to build on what you have read. You will be expected to pay the LearningCatalytics fee, but it is very inexpensive, only $12 per student. We will use LearningCatatlytics just about every session.

The homework will not be graded, but you will compare your solutions with your team in class and write a better solution set as a group and then compare it to the solutions that I hand out.  Then you will write a reflection piece about how hard your worked on the homework, what was easy and what you still don't understand.  You will also rate the effort of each of your group members.

Teams of 5 will be formed three times during the term. That means that each person will interact with 12 different people during the term.

We will have three open ended projects that will be based on the material we are covering in each third of the course. Each group will produce a presentation, a poster, or a video to convey the results of their work.

Grading will be done by a variety of rubrics including; 

(1) the quality, quantity, and timeliness of annotations to the text using
(2) in-class written reflections about the homework, 
(3) Readiness Assurance Assessments (RAAs) of material covered in guided learning activities.  These will be done using software that, as described above, will cost each student $12.00 for the term.  Students will bring a wifi enabled device (laptop, IOS or Android smartphone or table) and questions will be posed and answered numerically, in text, or graphically.  This system allows students to draw as input for answers to questions.  We will spend time most class periods using this system to solve problems, derive equations, and cover the important concepts.  Once we have covered a unit or two, we will give an RAA.  This will consist of 10-20 questions delivered to your device.  You will submit the answers yourself.  Then, you will take the RAA again as a group.  Your score will be the average of the two submissions.  If you are not happy with your individual score, you may take a second  RAA on a different day.  We may also do a project or two. If so, part of the grade will be based on the project presentations.  
(4) Projects - There will be 3 projects during the term.

Grades will be based as follows:

Book annotation:  25%
Homework reflection: 25%
Readiness assurance assessments: 25%

You can learn more about each of the components of the course in the menu