Many of the students said in their 1st first blog posts that they hated school science because it was all about memorizing facts, and that they’d chosen this class because it looked easy.
First class test last Monday. Class average 70%, only one A, and several fails. Students and I very disappointed. The test was on-line, to be done in their own time in a 24 hour window. They could consult anything except each other. No facts to memorize. Having gone over the questions and the student answers, I can not see anything obviously wrong with the test.
I could deal with the student disappointment by scaling this test up and dumbing future tests down, and several colleagues have suggested that. Certainly an easy solution. But the students deserve better – this is about skills for life.
So I’ll go over the questions with the students, go back over the relevant bits of earlier lectures, and re-emphasize the key concepts as we work through different material in the three weeks until the next test. The final score comes from the two best of four class tests – we’ve got three to go and can do lots of practice before then.
What is clear is that I am not getting the conceptual side of things across to many of the students. Yet another reminder that scientific thinking is not common sense. I suppose humanity did take thousands of years to figure it out, and most of the world still doesn’t get it. So it probably was a bit optimistic to think I can get it across to non-scientists in a few classroom hours. But that’s why we have tests. We all learn from them. Just so long as the students don’t start wishing there was a bunch of boring facts to memorize.