Monthly Archives: November 2014

Attendance: the reaction

I just fixed the on-line grade book to accurately reflect the attendance algorithm. Within minutes students are emailing asking what just happened to my grade?.

The answer (which in the pre-blog days I would have to give in individual email replies): as stated in the syllabus and several times in class, you earn 10% for attendance once you have been at seven quizzes. If you haven’t been at seven of the eight so far, you’re running a zero for attendance.  There are two more quizzes to come. If you want the attendance credit, come to class.

Attendance…the on-going saga

In response to year-in-year out feedback from students that they wished they had attended class more often (e.g.), I decided this year to try a more brutal approach to helping them help themselves. I take attendance at pop quizzes, and I do those at random times without warning. I plan to do a total of ten of them this semester. I give 100% for attendance if students are at seven; 0% if they are at fewer than seven. Attendance is worth 10%, so a whole degree grade is resting on this.

We’ve done eight quizzes so far, and 131 students – 68% of the class have got full marks for attendance. There are 38 students who are one quiz away, 12 who are two quizzes away, and 13 who have already blown 10% of their final grade.

Interesting dilemma now. At this point, what best incentivizes attendance for the rest of semester? I could do more than two more quizzes, but the more quizzes I run, the less incentive the poor attenders have to come to every remaining class. So I need to stick to just two more. That’ll hurt some, but that’s time management for you. They can’t say they weren’t warned (syllabus). However, I now realize my attendance algorithm no longer incentivizes the good attenders because they have it in the bag. Must fix that for next year (15 quizzes, must be at 11?). I know from experience that students only realize after the fact that they do better on tests by coming to class. And the material I cover between now and the end of the year will so be in Class Test 4 and the Final exam.

I remain amazed that Faculty have to motivate students to come to class. I would have thought paying for an education would be incentive enough.

Class Test 3: That's more like it…for much of the class

orang utanClass Test 3 ran yesterday. The class average among those who took the test was 83%, up 5% (half a grade) on the second test, and almost an entire grade on the first test. But as always, the average hardly captures the picture. Most gratifying was the number of great performances. No one got everything right, but five students got 26 out of 28 questions, and 16 got 100% on my ask-28-questions-grade-out-of-25 algorithm. Altogether, 33 students got an A, and another 33 got an A-. So 66 students got some sort of A, a third of the class. So much better than any of the previous tests — and maybe a record for any of the 19 class tests I have run so far (must check).

The rest of the grades broke out thus: 16 B+, 13 B, 25 B-, 18 C+, 24 C, 20 D, with 5 fails. Seven students failed to take the test despite reminder emails.

So this is all going in the right direction. As always, what to do about the students who are not doing well? Unless anyone suggests something else (and I am always, always open to better ideas), the best I can do is repeat what I said here and beg and implore students unhappy with their scores to come to the revision sessions I run. For those who came to a revision session last time and still did poorly, the recipe hasn’t changed. Keep at it. Revise, question, ask. Learning requires action. If it’s not yet working, keep going. I can help. But only if asked. If I could figure out how students could learn without effort, I would be very rich.

Regarding question x….

Students are beginning to email me while tests are live, asking for clarification of the question or for help in deciding among a couple of options. I do have to pay attention in case it’s a sign there is something wrong with a question. But it never is. Instead, I have to email back saying that out of fairness to the rest of the class, I can’t respond while the test is live. Where relevant, I’ll add that I think the question is fair, or that no one else has emailed with that particular concern. And then usually I find myself finishing: It is good that you are reading the question very closely and thinking hard about it. You need to. But do not over think the answer.

This is one of those posts I’ll link to when I am responding to such requests in future.