Tuesday, October 24, 2006

You can't blame the wreck on the train

My Discrete Math students are not doing well on the exam that I gave last night. This doesn't surprise me. It was apparent, in the weeks leading up to the exam, that they weren't getting it. A number of them are simply not doing the homework, and a great deal more are doing the bare minimum -- scrambling to get something down, writing down whatever hints I give in class, and handing it in. So I did what I often do in this situation: I based the exam heavily on the homework. I always try to keep the homework in mind, but this exam, I lifted several problems almost verbatim from the homework, and had several more that were the same idea, just worded differently. And, as I say, my students aren't doing well.

In some sense, I should be pleased that my demonstration "worked." Now I can go in and say, "Hey, bozos, try rubbing a few brain cells together when you do the homework." (Actually, I never talk to my students like that. I'll be polite and positive, but also try to convey the idea that homework is there for a reason.)

In another sense, I'm still disappointed. Somehow, I blame myself. Why couldn't I have covered this topic better, or spent more time on that? Of course, the truth (and I really do know it, deep down) is that it barely matters what I do in class, if they aren't going to do the work outside of class.

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Anonymous said...

Perhaps the test grades, and the comment that the test questions were taken from or based on homework will shake loose a couple brain cells. Don't be reluctant to say to the students what you said in the last paragraph of your blog. Subtle hints won't cut it, but direct comments have a chance.

Marilynn said...

I agree with "anonymous" -- you can't be subtle when you're dealing with striking results like this. I experienced this same situation while teaching English comp and survey of lit classes. Somehow it always amazed me that the students were amazed at their poor grades after doing almost no outside reading or work. That was always quite upsetting to me, no matter how many semesters went by.