On balance, I’m pretty pleased. I made the test slightly harder than I normally do for the opener, but I also spent more time reviewing things before hand (not least, I used half of last years first class test as a Pop Quiz last week). I also deliberately covered less material in the first three weeks of semester, with a view to trying to get the basics better ground in. And it all seems to have worked! Overall, things are up on last year at this time — more A’s, a higher overall average and most importantly, fewer D’s and Fails.
For those who did the test, the average score was 79% (C+). One student got all the questions right on her first go, the first in over 1400 students to have achieved that. Two students got 26/28 questions, and seventeen more got 25/28, so a total of twenty got 100% on my ask 28-questions-grade-out-of-25 algorithm. In total, there were 42 A‘s, 32 A-, 40 B+, 40 B, 42 B-, 33 C+, 39 C, 35 D, 49 and 28 fails. We had 12 no-shows.
But that all represents a big teaching challenge: over a third of the class is on a B+ or better, but more than 1 in 5 on a D or worse. How to keep the top students stretching while lifting those in the tail of the distribution?
In the last class of last year, I asked the students to write a postcard to the person they were 15 long weeks earlier, at the start of semester. I wanted to know the lessons graduating SC200 students would tell themselves if they had a chance to go back in time and start the class again. I asked them to advise themselves on how to learn better and how to get a better grade.
Most (85%) of the advice on how to learn better on the course fell into the following five responses.
- Take more and better notes.
- Focus on overall concepts not details
- Outline notes and focus on terms
- Pay more attention in class.
- Turn off phone/no texting in class
- Sit closer to the front
- Focus more
- Don’t sit with friends
- Ask more questions.
- Meet with TAs
- Go to review sessions
- Come to all classes.
- Study more between tests
Hindsight is a fine thing, of course, but it was eye-opening to me to get back from the students all the stuff I told them at the start of the semester.
I talked about all that with the class of 2016, explaining that its not just my advice but also the advice of the graduating students. We’ll see if the ghosts of students past make more of an impact than I do.