Many students did poorly on the first class test and with the second class test looming, they’ve been emailing asking for office hours (American-speak for wanting a 1:1 meeting). By-and-large, I’ve been refusing to see them. Not because I want don’t want to talk or help, but because I somehow have to help students to try to first help themselves. Teaching them that is perhaps even more important than the content of the course (?).
My view is that students who are doing poorly have to go over the pop quizzes and the class tests and figure out what they can’t understand. I try to force them to do this with the class tests – I tell them what they got wrong, but not what the right answer is. I want them to try to figure it out. If they can’t, and then I force them to write to me explaining what they can’t understand and why they can’t understand it, well hell, two things happen. First, I’ve forced them to identify what they can’t figure out and think hard about it. Often times (most times?) when they think hard about it, they understand it. And second, once we have put our joint finger on what the problem is, I can help. I can’t help with undefined problems. So far this semester only two students have written with specific problems (Class Test X, question Y, I do not see why it could not be (a) and (c) because… or, I do not understand what a confounding variable is because…). I can work with those students. Together, I think we’ve made progress.
Industry, employers, scientists, business-folk, politicians – everyone in challenging positions – agree that identifying the problem (defining it well) is the first step to solving it (and maybe the hardest part). And we have it in us all to work at that. We don’t need a professor to do that for us. Professors who just provide the answers to questions no one understands cheat everyone.