It great to try new things in teaching. We desperately need to when we are honest about how little many students actually learn, particularly with traditional modes of delivery. Technology also makes possible all sorts of things.
People will often promote innovations; but sometimes a few years later it is found that they don't work as well as they did or were hoped to. Yet I suspect that sometimes, because of disappointment or embarrassment, the proponents are a bit coy about making known regressions.
So in the interest of transparency and to promote discussion here are a couple of mine. They both relate to a course PHYS4030: Condensed Matter Physics that I have taught on of off for the past ten years. It is a final year undergraduate course that basically covers approximately half the material in Ashcroft and Mermin.
A few years ago I introduced three innovations. Both seemed to work for a while.
Formative and summative assessment following the example of another undergraduate course I was involved in. Students must complete a certain minimum amount of work [attendance, writing on the course blog, assignments, ...] to pass the course but this has little effect on their final grade.
A course blog that students must post and comment on several times a week. I did this because it had worked earlier in a biophysics reading course I taught.
Students give a talk on a recent research paper [often from a luxury journal] that relates to the course.
I won't be doing any of the three this year.
Why? Basically, for the same reason as
Confession of an Ivy League teaching assistant: Here’s why I inflated grades
It is not worth the hassle of dealing with student complaints.
It seems some students think they should "credit" for all the work they do. Some read the course profile to mean they could make all their posts on the blog in the last week. Some didn't see why they should have to attend the paper talks of their classmates. Some also had rather different views to me about what grade they should get for their talks.
So, for now I am reverting to the old traditional assessment: exams and assignments.
I welcome comments and suggestions.