Managing Mathematics with CALMAT

Dexter J Booth

Abstract


The art of good teaching is the art of being organised; lectures ready, clearly delivered with tutorial and homework support. Homework is given out, handed in, marked and handed back on a weekly basis - at regular times and over regular intervals. Learning is work and the student has to develop the habit of regular application if he or she is to succeed. Knowledge acquisition is not an osmotic process; it requires steady graft and continual reflection. If it were otherwise it would not be worthwhile.

But if the student does not participate, no amount of organisation on behalf of the teacher is going to be of worth. The corner stone of a student's participation rests on their willingness to work alone; a willingness that can be stimulated by regular homework followed by regular feedback. Take that away and pretty soon the wall will be breached - the odd lecture is missed - no sanction. Then the odd tutorial - still no sanction. Then large scale absenteeism And then the sanction - failure - but too late. Admittedly not all students follow this pattern but too many do and here is the point at issue; with a large group of first year students how can the habit of regular effort be instilled? How can the teacher ensure that no-one is 'slipping the net'? Clearly weekly homeworks are out of the question with 100+ students and this is where automated systems come into their own.

This paper describes the operation and consequences of a pilot study to use a computer to deliver tutorial activities and continual assessments to a large group of first year undergraduate engineering students.

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