Surviving in University Part 7

Posted by sazali

Salam/ Salutations.

Ok .. now we go to the other part called assignments and projects in the university.  In this occasion, I will focus my writing to the assignments and projects during the first year / 2nd year of your degree program.  The rest ... I think I will keep that a bit later.

2)  For a start let us read, write, reflect things called 'assignments'.
I restrict this to Maths/ Stats assignments.

As a lecturer , I usually give 4 or 5 assignments for my students to do for the first 8 to 10 week lectures.  This will keep them a bit occupied.  Even though they like washing their clothes on Saturday/ Sunday or going shopping in BP Mall or Melaka Mall ..  at least  at the back of their minds .. there are assignments for them to complete and submit.

I accepted assignments sent on time i.e., on or before the due date.  After that date , I rejected all their work ( except my arab students who just could not understand what a due date means bad huh?).

Talking about assignments ..

I keep all their work in a corner of my room.  After marking, I just keep them in case .. if I returned them  to the students .. there is always a chance .. I will get the same work by my foreign students plus many sad sad stories such as ..why they submitted their work a bit late.  I hate to listen all kinds of stories ranging from their papa quarrelled with their mummies, their grand dad got married again  to ..  he broke his right leg last few weeks.

3) From the students' perspective , assignments mean .. you can collaborate with your friends ..

after some discussion, 'zerox' ing each other's masterpieces , .. you can submit the assignment .. make sure it is before the due date. Settle?

If you can work with your friends .. jolly good then else .. if you wanted to submit your own work .. that is fine for me as long as you send the work to my attention asap.

From my experience in Leeds 1978/82 ..  very rarely I got my assignment back for my revision.  I did not dare to ask my work from my Professors.  As long as I pass handsomely in my coursework + exam in each of the subjects that I took . i did not care so much about my work ( assignments) in their room.

I knew .. I know the subject very well.  That was good enough for me.

But in Malaysia, some of the chinese/ indian students always ask for their work every now and then especially when we met at the faculties' lifts etc etc.  Of course I returned their work .. accordingly.  But now I still have piles and piles of my ex-students' work in front of my office's door..  it may seems that not many of them are interested to collect their work  any more ..  .  Last time, I brought home many things from UK .. it was all in the t-chest (boxes) .. shipped from London to Port Klang.  I kept all my work.  Initially my families laughed at me keeping old things ..  Now it has turned very yellow/ browninsh  ..  eaten by time spent in my home library ..luckily I kept my work ..  and my children can see my work 30 years ago well intact for their reference(s).

I did not buy jewels and diamonds from UK ..but I bought few books from the car boots in Whitechapel , London, Leeds  and Birmingham ,.. and those old books are the source of my exam question banks.  He..he..  complete with answer scripts!

Thinking back .. I think I was smart in the sense that I kept old maths books from Grantham and London.  For your information, Sir Issac Newton the world well known physicist came from Grantham and so did Margaret Thatcher, a former Iron Lady from Grantham, Lincolnshire.  Yes, I was fortunate to study there ..  some where near Newton / Thatcher had studied ..  once upon a time before.


the steps to do :

firstly, read the question.  Once.  twice .  thrice.  Can you understand the question?  If yes go to step 2. else .. don't worry.  Seek your friend meh?

secondly,  try and do them yourself.  Yes, if you can do it yourself ..  give a pat on your back.  Can?
else ..keep trying again and again until you can do ..few of the questions yourself.

thirdly,  write out properly.

finally , submit them yourself and tell to the lecturer .. this is my own work Sir!  can?


It is good to try and do the assignment yourself.  It will give you some confidence and your 'maruah' will be kept high and nigh.  He..he..

it is also good to consult your better friends .. in completing the next half of the questions as produced in the assignment. At least it tells to your friend .. you had tried some yourself.

it is not good consult your friends .  when haven't done anything on the assignment yourself.  It tells the whole world you are there to copy ..  just copy all the times.  What is this , man?


In England, I have many chinese friends from Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong.  They were very friendly and they looked very  smart ...  but I never ask their 100% help in completing my maths, stats and programming tasks.  Mostly after lecture , I went home or visit the library to do the homework ..  it was very painful .. thinking .. alone since I was the only melayu in that course ..  but Soon  after I entered my final year degree program Operational Research , i gained some respect .. and from there we collaborated with many kinds of projects what come may.  I believed that .. we must show to the others that we are fully qualified to enter a British University/ Polytechnic  based on our merits GCE "A" Levels results alone not because we were from Felda Jengka 10, 11 and many more.  Last few months PM Dato' Najib Tun Razak mentioned of building FELDA UNIVERSITI -  I hate to enter a university based on the fact I was a poor melayu and I was admitted to the university by another powerful melayu.  (refer:  Halim Yatim, Dikir Barat, pesan ibu).


In Malaysia, from my 20 year experience teaching ..  in a polytechnic (KPTM) and a technical university (KPTM) ..  I found that many students ..  liked to engage in group work since day 1 in their diploma/  degree program.  Some times when I marked their assignments ..  if I found an error ..  that error keeps on repeating itself in their friends answer scripts.  Why?  ..  he..he..  magic in the air?


I wrote a book about Collaborative Work using Felder (1991) and Felder and Brent (2004) recommendations.
last few days I presented a paper in a conference 'Assessment and Evaluation' UTHM co-hosted with MPM (Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia) and alhamdulilah I gave a book (Mohd Sazali & Helmi Adly, 2012)  to a MPM big officer ..  as a simple sign of friendship between a veteran maths teacher and them MPM.

In those presentations, I explained that ..  why somehow we went downhill as far as TIMMS' report and World Universities Rankings from 2002 - 2011 ..
may be .. my above experience marking the assignments ... can explain the decline.

In a book by ...   they said the teachers failed to explain the basic mathematical concepts to the 14 year old students in this country ..  I could not comment because .. the teachers were taught maths in Bahasa Melayu from 1978 to 1998 and suddenly Tun Mahathir in 2000 suggested the maths and sciences must be taught in English.  The result as TIMMS report say :  in 1999 we were the 9th best in maths among 14 plus students as compared to 100 different nations but when the year 2011 came ..  our position in maths was 26th.  The 4 letter word 'MALU' !

u !


It is difficult to assess and evaluate a piece of maths/ stats/ programming work when 5 students claimed to be working together in producing the work.

It is also time consuming to listen to their presentations.  Of course I enjoyed .. listening their work during my classes and lab sessions.  But if they were in my shoes .. then they will know ..  it was hard to give ..  marks correctly  to those who have made the real break through in solving, developing the idea behind the assignment and projects.

Usually in RPP4 .. we spelt ..all the assignments/ projects ..  but unfortunately the presentations happened at the end of the semester.  We got to rush with so many things.  More over Malaysia has so many public holidays.  If not because of the King's birthday , the cuti was associated with THE RED WARRIORS that came home with the FA Cup trophy (laugh).  We lost our momentum if there were so many cutis in the universities.

If a section of students' population  has 70 students that semester and each group has 5 students. Then I have about 14 different groups to assess and evaluate their work.  It is really tough when the peer evaluation forms ( Barkley et al , 2005) that I gave to my students ..  showed .. they were all happy with their peers' contribution.  They award all Likert Scale of '5' to their friends in the group.  In that Likert Scale we used a scale of 1 to indicate  Lowest Contribution  and  a scale of 5 to be the Highest Contribution.

So if I gave ..15/20 marks ..  to the group leader , i was obliged to give 15/20 marks to the other followers.  Thus ..  each of them have obtained 15 marks from group assignment.

if the test , quiz and exams .. they got 25 marks ..  as a total ..  i found  majority of my students had passed the maths, stats and programming with the lowest passing grades.  Bravo ..  team work at their best!

We can discuss ..  is it difficult to get another 25 marks ..   in order to pass a maths paper?

But I better kept that under my chest alone.
In short ..  I somehow told the audience consisting of many Form 6 teachers and lecturers from JB IPG, Pagoh IPTA, and many students from many schools  .. in sum I did not enjoy assessing and evaluating my students in  maths and stats ..  using group work as one of the measuring strategies.  I gave 2 rubrics in the paper/ conference.

I think that is all for today.  I hope you can talk to your self  quietly ..  how to survive in this university .. but deep under my brown melayu jati skin  .. it is always good to show you have some degree of maths knowledge , skills, understanding, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation i.e., a credibility as a university graduate at the end of your wonderful stay in this great place  called THE UNIVERSITY. Syukurlah kita!

4)  Insyallah, a paper in COSMED V, Penang 11 - 13 NOV 2013 will address this tone again but the gist is ..  the contents of maths , stats that Sir Issac Newton, Sir Bonaperte,  Ibnu Kharuzjmi  did know once ..  may have gone a bit different in its approach  in our march towards an advanced developing nation 2020 with so many holidays in between.  He..he..

With that .. may I bade you good bye and ....
God Bless you .  Ameen.  


Felder, R.M. (1991).  Effective teaching.  in a workshop , Department of Chemical Engineering , North Corolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.

Felder and Brent .  (2004).  Nota Kursus UTM Co-Operative Learning.  Skudai:  UTM

Barkley, E.F. , Cross, K.P., and Major, C.H.(2005).  Collaborative Learning Techniques -A handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass.

Mohd Sazali Khalid & Sulaiman Yamin. (2013). Assessment and Evaluation of Statistics Projects in UTHM:  are we doing it correctly?  Paper presented in Persidangan Pentaksiran Pendidikan PraUniversiti dan Pendidikan Tinggi 2013.  UTHM Block G3. 21 SEPT 2013. Main Hall.    1 - 6

Mohd Sazali Khalid & Helmi Adly Mohd Noor (2012). Teaching and Learning Mathematics using CDiCL:  making sense through computers and teamwork.  Parit Raja:  UTHM



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