In a more significant experiment than the am-I-ready-for-this quiz, I am rethinking the assignments that accompany my grad algorithms course. In last year’s class, I had the grad students work in randomly-assigned and rotating (different for each assignment) groups. I will comment on this in another post.

I’m sticking with the group-based approach – partly for feasibility. But rather than having standard written submissions and written comments/grades, I am having the students participate in a type of problem-solving session; and idea I stole from Claire Mathieu.

Each group will prepare solutions to some (2) problems ahead of the 2-hour problem-solving session. Each group (A) will explain the solution to one of their problems X (picked by me) to another group (B) who will then explain the solution to me, with instant feedback/help/cleaning. Group B should leave the session satisfied that they understand the solution to X and will prepare a written solution within 2 days. The grade of both group A and B will depend on the oral explanation I was given and the written solution to problem X. Every group will take the role of teacher/student for one problem (that is, group B will then explain the solution to one of their problems, Y, to group A). The written solutions will be placed into a (private-to-OSU) repository for other groups to see. For details, see here.

Students are encouraged to repeat this process for other problems that they did not solve or learn; there are as many problems as groups (12) and every student knows who has solved each problem. I’m hoping this will be a helpful, less lonely, way for them to prepare for the midterm and final (which will determine the bulk of their grade).

I’m hoping that this will help students learn to solve the types of problems they will be asked on the midterm and exam, and (more importantly) that they might face in their research (or in job interviews). I’m also hoping that it is a more effective use of class time than hearing me lecture for another 2 hours a week. (I have 4 total hours per week of class time).

As before, I will (bravely) ask my students to comment. I will try and do my best to take the comments into consideration to improve the remaining 5 problem solving sessions. I have already received one comment that will take effect next session: in the last session, some problems went undiscussed; in future sessions, every problem will be discussed (by some pair of groups) and posted to the repository. Comments from non-students are always appreciated!