The students are currently blogging about why they are doing my course and why they are not science majors. I ask them to do this (for credit) to make sure they can work the technology, but also because I am interested in the answers.

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This year, more than before, many of them are saying that they are are doing my course because it is easy. I wonder why it has got that reputation. Each year, I have serious s*** from the students after the first class test or two because they do not like their grades. Likewise after the first blog period. So I work hard to get them up to speed — and most of them do get up to speed. And I like that.
But I could make things tougher. I think this is the biggest issue in US education today: how high a bar to set? What should our expectations be? If I set my bar too high, they will hate science. Too low, and I will rob them (and society) of a proper education.
This problem has worried me from the start. My thoughts in 2011 are largely unchanged. If the course has a reputation for being easy, then clearly I can stretch things further.
Just how hard to push students is I think the gorilla in the room. Faculty shy away from serious discussion of it. So do the institutions. How to bring in student dollars but at the same time take the students places they don’t want to go?
Maybe I should have a classroom discussion about this?

5 thoughts on “Easy…?


    I remember one of my classmates claiming the course was easy after it was over. Unless he was a rational actor in some neoclassical economic model, I’m not sure how his description was accurate.

    Now that I’m in grad school and constantly confronted (more like affronted) on a daily basis with qualitative headaches, I’m thankful and appreciative for the obstacle course of scientific data your course inundated my brain with.

  2. Andrew Read

    Matthew – you are still out there and paying attention! That’s great. Where are you at grad school, and studying what?

    (FYI others: Matthew is SC200 class of 2011).

    Yes, I bet no one is going on about how easy this class is in a test or two’s time. I think its interesting that when you knock students flat with a test or two, and then work your butt off to get them up to speed, they conclude the course was easy. Maybe I should do what happens in other science classes and hit them hard and leave them on the floor to flounder: use it as a course to weed people out.

    Nah. –Andrew

    PS No one is an actor in a neoclassical economic model.


      I am enrolled in the School of International Affairs here at PSU in a 2 year MA program. The study of “My dad can beat up your dad” on a global scale.

      I am currently working as a live-in Language Consultant in one of the Pollock residence halls as well. Since the majority of the floor happens to be 10 years my junior, I’ve been emphasizing the need to be more proactive than the other two consultants believe. I may or may not be borrowing some of your pedagogy (I am).

      I also find it interesting that even some of my grad courses are using polleverywhere.com, which you first utilized. Which, I suppose, can have different meanings (students are not interacting enough openly, anonymity leads to more honest answers, etc.), but overall I think the data collection is one of the best assets (another aspect you blog about).

      To borrow something I have learned from painting, I’ve come to realize that sometimes you inform the work, but the work can also inform you. Seems incredibly obvious in print, but for me it was quite an epiphany.


    Honestly when I first went to my advisor in the communications school he advised me to take this course because its supposed to be “easy” as you just said. However, I don’t think this course is going to be easy. It challenges my brain in a way that no other class has ever challenged it before. It actually makes me think. Although we’ve only had a few classes so far, I find them very interesting. I am not a science person whatsoever, but this course has opened up my eyes that science is everywhere. I hadn’t realized or even thought about that before. Since I am in the communications school I will have to be doing a lot of writing and this course is helping me with my writing skills. I also completely agree with you on what you said about if you don’t challenge our brains then it is robbing us from a proper education. In previous science courses that I have taken I would go to the teachers office hours and basically have him do the homework for me because I didn’t understand any of the formulas that were going on. In this class I feel challenged but I like it.


    Upon choosing science Gen-eds, I looked for science courses that seemed interesting, and understandable. I feel as though us as students don’t mean easy as in “oh this class is a guaranteed A,” but yet a course that is a lot more reasonable. For me personally, I hate chemistry and any hands on type science with bonds, or formulas etc. This science class seems like a breath of fresh air form most science classes. For once we can take in science with an open mind, that is my favorite part of this course. Finally I am able to go to a science class happily, not dreading it. So for most students, I think, it is true to say that we aren’t taking it because it’s “easy,” but because it’s a fun, challenging, and for once, a doable science course. Also, I love love the fact that this course has already connected back to my AP psychology course from high school. Correlation and causation was one of the best and most interesting units for me. The fact that the class started with a bang and is something that I understand thrills me and makes me excited for the rest of the semester!


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