User:Carl Boettiger/Notebook/Teaching/2009/10/26

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Hands On Hamilton's Rule

Led the discussion in Richard McElreath’s PBG 270 today on Hamilton’s Rule. Since I’ve been thinking about different teaching strategies recently and am often unsatisfied with the way these seminars go in which one student tries to lead a discussion on a paper that everyone should have read but hasn’t, I tried to do something different. First I identified a basic set of goals and steps based off of McElreath’s book chapter on this topic, which was excellent and very readible, unlike the actual Hamilton 1964 paper, which was not. I had thought about attempting a netlogo like exercise where people could fiddle around and see it work, but partly out of laziness and partly out of the desire to try something new I decided on a little interactive game activity using cards that read “altruist” or “cheater,” assigned at random to everyone. Individuals would interact with 4 other individuals by showing their card, and then score the interaction — altruists always paying a cost of 1/2 to interact and giving a +1 to those they interact with, cheaters paying nothing and giving nothing to those they interact with. Initially interactions are random, so there is no covariance, and the cheaters clearly do better. I then created a covariance by having cheaters interact only once, while others interact 4 times again. I should have tabulated the raw data in a way that it was clear what you’d take the covariances of, but I hadn’t thought that far ahead. We calculated some of the basic coefficients of the benefit and cost that show up in the model under the linear fitness effects assumptions, which was less helpful. I was a bit disorganized and didn’t get all the way through, and the role of the class was often unclear. Further, my use and organization on the blackboard was quite horrible for the most part, making it hard to follow what I was doing. It was a nice idea that didn’t do so well in the execution. Oh well, something to attempt again another day. We’ll get another go at this next week, where Richard McElreath will simply present in lecture format the whole story, nice and clear. Diversity of teaching styles is good, and after the confusion of my week, I think the clear, non-interactive lecture will be all the better received.