My worst fears for the final exam were not realized. The performance train smash of the first tests did not recur. Faced with an exam worth 20% of the final mark, the students really worked hard and many did outstandingly well. Some of the improvements across the semester were staggering. I bet many of the students are now wondering what all the fuss was about. And I hope more than a few are thinking, ‘yes, he was right – we learn from tests’. The best comment:
The first test I took for this class I would have never imagined on ever getting an A. I remember you saying at the beginning of the semester, the questions won’t get easier but you will get better. And you were right.
Anyhow, the break down:
Final ‘Take home’ test: A: 32; A-, 7; B+, 6; B, 7; B-, 1; C+, 2; C, 4; D, 1; Fail, 7 (including six no-shows).
Which means for the grades overall:
A: 24; A-, 19; B+, 10; B, 2; B-, 2; C+, 2; C, 2; D, 1; Fail, 4; Withdrawn, 2.
Five students got 100%. Grade distribution: A, 10 students; A-, 11; B+, 11, B, 5: B-, 7; C+, 6; C, 1; D, 5; 5 fails, 9 no shows.
So of those who did the test, just over a half of the class got a B or better and a third got an A. I feel much less disturbed about the lower tail than I used to. This course is pretty tough on those that don’t come to class or the revision sessions. Those that sought help at various times over the last couple of weeks really did well. Very pleasing.
About a dozen students hurt their final grades by not participating on the class blog. These students attended class and have done well on the tests. Why did they not blog? Presumably it is simple laziness for some of them. But does blogging dis-enfranchise, dis-empower or dis-incentivize some students? I have resolved to ask the dozen by email, just in case.
Running this course out of the Deans’ office, my thoughts get responses from serious, thoughtful people. Take this dialog of yesterday.
My initial comment: “For your infotainment, I had had some students actually threaten to give the course bad scores
because my tests forced them to think. That experience makes me really question the point of SRTEs – my sense is that giving them easy tests, and entertaining them a bit, is the route to great scores. Many students seem to simply want the highest score for the least amount of effort. That’s been a real shock to me, given how so many families ulcerate to get their children to a school like this. The major teaching challenge seems to be to get them to think without them noticing. Still, the good ones are a real joy.”
Responses from some very high-level people in the university:
“I guess what we have to content ourselves with is that virtue is its own reward.”
“I have seen many studies that insist that easy grading does not result in better student evaluations of teaching or courses. And I’ve heard many colleagues argue otherwise. I don’t know which is accurate. Call me an optimist, but I would sure like to think that we too often hear from the minority of students who are slackers, while the majority of our students respect and appreciate courses in which they are challenged to really learn something”
“I’m in agreement — I’ve read research claiming that students in fact appreciate tougher and more substantive instructors.”
Today at noon, the end of the final assessment period for the class blog. Students only post for credit, so that’s it done, gone until the class of 2011. I shall miss it. Its been a daily treat. I’ve learnt heaps, and laughed and been horrified in equal measure. But it has surpassed my expectations. The students taught each other so much — that science matters in their lives, and that it can be interesting, important, fun, profound, and always changing.