Students do the darndest things.

Dec 22 2010 Published by under Academia, Personal, Teaching and learning

In the designated in-class review session for a final exam:

Student: Could you make a list for us of all the philosophers whose views we need to know for the final exam?

Me: I already did. It's called the syllabus.

* * * * *

In an email the weekend before the final exam:

Student: I had some questions on the final review sheet ...

Rather than actually asking any questions, the email simply reproduces items listed on the review sheet under "Important concepts and terminology" and "Questions about the reading" -- lots of them. I start to wonder if this email is meant as a clever way to get the professor to write the student's page of notes for the exam.

Me: Look at the discussion of [this question] in [this textbook chapter]. For [that concept], you'll want to reread [that reading in the course reader]. Hope that helps!

* * * * *

From the official guidelines for short "reading response" essays on my course website:

Reading responses are due at the beginning of lecture.  No late reading responses will be accepted.  Of the 5 reading responses assigned, your lowest grade will be dropped from the average.  (If you skip one, that will be the one that gets dropped.)

In my faculty mailbox, on the day of the final exam, with no prior consultation and no note of explanation:

Two way-past-due reading response essays from a student who had only handed in two of the five when they were due.

17 responses so far

  • Astrid says:

    Amazing.
    The one that keeps cropping up from fellow students that ALWAYS floors me:
    "What's the minimum amount we should revise in order to pass the exam?"

  • Physicalist says:

    Ok, advice needed.

    Fairly well-written paper, but completely misunderstands the topic -- clearly didn't grasp the lectures (if he even showed up for them). Doesn't refer to any of the readings. 2/3 the required number of pages. Does say some non-stupid (but irrelevant) things.

    Do I give him an "F" or a "D" for the paper?

    • tideliar says:

      F obviously. F for FAIL.

      "well-written paper", well, I you're not teaching intro creative writing, so that shouldn't count.

      "clearly didn't grasp the lectures" = Fail

      "Doesn't refer to the readings" = Fail

      "66% of required length" = Dumbass

      "Says irrelevant things" = Fail

      F + F + D + F = F. For Fail.

  • Pascale says:

    Two thoughts:
    1) Really nothing has changed since I was in college
    2) Undergrads pull the same crap as medical students.

  • Rob Knop says:

    My first Astro 102 class at Vanderbilt: just before the first test, in class I'm reviewing everything we've done so far. About 20 minutes in, a young woman raises her hand, and asks, "Will there be a review session for the test?"

    I respond "this is it", and watch as a room full of paniced students start grabbing their pencils and realiIng that they should pay attention. (This was before I realized that students expected a special session where I tell them exactly what's on the test, and which couse content they never have to think about.)

    Next time around, I announced on the first day of class that there would be review sessions for the test every MWF at 10 AM. That didn't work much better....

    • Isabel says:

      "I respond “this is it”, and watch as a room full of paniced students start grabbing their pencils and realiIng that they should pay attention."

      This made me laugh.

      • rknop says:

        ...you can tell I typed it on my phone, as the "zi" in "realizing" came out as a capital I. #thumbstoobig

        (Is it tacky to put twitter topics in a comment on a blog?)

  • Hector M. says:

    Amazing how the US got to be a world power on such humble foundations.

    • Tualha says:

      I'm pretty sure most of the minority of people who went to college when the US was becoming a world power were not like these students. And those who were, were flunked, and did not affect much thereafter.

  • Pinko Punko says:

    For the "Lecture haters":

    "I wonder if there is a problem with proposals that lectures be turned into reading material and then something magic happens during lecture time?"

    My saddest: a kid with a high B mentioned that consideration for turning that B into an A should be that he/she attended all lectures and review sessions. Uh, no. Sigh.

    • rknop says:

      Yeah, I've run into that before. "A for effort" sort of thing.

      I often do include a "participation/initiative" component to the grade. That does give me wiggle room where it's needed (in both directions). But, just showing up doesn't give you high scores, at least if the point of grading is to give some sort of approximation to how well you learned the material.

  • Procrastinator says:

    Academics and instructors:
    Have pity on the student who submitted her reading response essays hopelessly late. What she's trying to tell you is that she did the reading. Late, but she completed it.
    Yeah, it's sorta pitiful, and I'm not saying she should be graded the same as other students who completed the work on time. But you don't know what's going on in her life that might conspire to necessitate this kind of cramming. And you're not teaching time management or organizational skills.
    Wouldn't you rather that the student at least TRY to crack the books open than pull the rest of the BS mentioned in this post? She wants you to know that she tried.

    • Tualha says:

      And will her future managers be similarly understanding about her life issues interfering with her work? (By the way, did someone say this student was female? I don't see it...)

      • Pat Cahalan says:

        side note:

        I'm not really keen on "this is to prepare you for Work in the Business World (TM)" learning lesson arguments unless you're careful about how you apply them (secondary side note: outside of working in the military in a war zone, academic deadlines are generally much more inflexible and arbitrary than workplace deadlines when it comes to the person trying to deliver).

        These arguments sort of swing both ways: if "preparing you for your future managers" is a realistic reason for your academic methodologies, then the critique of higher education that "a (foo) major doesn't prepare you for the office" holds a *lot* of water on the other end.

        I mean, one can certainly say that this is a factor, but it shouldn't be the "full stop" justification for not accepting late assignments, unless you want a snooty business exec throwing it back in your face when they vote against funding of higher ed.

  • I pepper my review lecture with variations of "isn't this a great review question?" I still never fail to be amazed at the numbers of students who refuse to take notes.

    I found that separate review sessions nearly always produced questions that could be answered with "according to the syllabus...." Since I've stopped having review sessions, my class attendance has increased, my blood pressure has decreased, and my Wii time has increased. Win.

  • Jeff says:

    I've discovered that I'm a much better (or at least more considerate) student since I started TAing labs. I don't want to put up with my students' crap, why should I make my profs put up with mine?

  • dryad says:

    Not sure what word to use in this context, but this behavior seems to be a carryover from highschool, where demonstrable learning was not actually required to pass a course.

    I should know. I played truant in Grades 10, 11, and 12 for over 100 days combined according to my transcripts, and still I passed the year with Bs in most of my courses.

    Failing a first year college course was the best thing that ever happened to me. Made me realize I should either quit or get with it. I liked to learn (still do) so I got with it.

    Of course failing students is a risky proposition for teachers and profs. High failure rates may lead to low enrollment, and education is a business of sorts at the university and college level. It would not do to fail too many students, would it?