Friday, September 28, 2007

the latest

Two things have set me back recently, and made me fall behind on posting, not to mention miss Saudi Day and other treats. First, we lost internet access at home over the weekend, for reasons unknown except to Verizon, then I got a little sick due to working the midnight shift one night with Corey, who for whatever reason chose to watch Zaboomafoo from 2-3:30 am. But a bigger reason in the Vocabulary Project.

Briefly, my class decided to study effects of stress on memory and performance; specifically on performance in vocabulary quizzes which have been a staple of my teaching but which I hadn't really been using this term. My class knew how I felt; knew that I felt that it was very important how and how much they pick up vocabulary, and also knew that this would be a good way to study their own responses to stress especially with the upcoming TOEFL.

I set up a series of four vocabulary quizzes which I gave to two groups, the evens-odds and the odds-evens. The evens-odds took the evens ones first, so that I could make the last two evens quizzes of equal difficulty for the odds-evens. I did the same for the odds; the odds-evens took the odd numbers (1-79) first; I normalized them; and made the last two quizzes for the evens-odds equally difficult. Then, we added stress on the last day, a whopper of an exam, today. One that counted and counted big. Then we measured if they lost any ground on their vocabulary.

Results were mixed. Let's just say, they would have lost more ground, if they were put in a helicopter crash simulator, ducked under water, and forced to swim to the were these people who actually were placed in this position to test the effects of stress on memory. Let's also say, the TOEFL is probably much worse than a Core Unit exam, particularly for some students. And, finally, there are some students who actually pick up so little vocabulary, that they tend to throw off the numbers.

All of these problems, I will address in the near future, if I have time. Look here for student comments on related topics, though I don't know if their write up of this project will make it onto the blogs or not. It seemed to be a great way to tie together class subjects (stress, health, mind control over stress), class pressures, and my own interests (studying why, how, and how well they actually pick these words up)- and, most importantly, got them talking a lot about the process of learning.

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