Class Test 2: upping the bar

This test happened yesterday. It covered more ground that the first test (since we are now half way through semester and the tests are cumulative). I also deliberately made it a bit harder to keep students stretching. Looks like that worked pretty well. The average score among those who did the test was 77% (C+), very slightly down on Class Test 1. The distribution broke out as:

A, 15; A-, 44; B+, 46; B, 43; B-, 41; C+, 27; C, 30; D, 61; Fail, 35, and 9 no-shows.

The top end of the distribution took a hair cut: no one got everything right, only four students got 26/28 and only 9 got 100% on my ask-28-questions-grade-out-of-25 algorithm (down from 20 last time).  There were fewer were fewer A’s this time (15 versus 42), but more A-‘s (44 versus 32), and about the same number of B’s. So I did manage to challenge the students at the top end. Good.

But at the bottom end, things got a bit worse. More students got a D or failed. So the distribution has become more bimodal. I think that’s to be expected when the bar is raised. The students raising their game get better, the students not following things get more heavily penalized. The tests become less forgiving if the basics aren’t soundly in place.

try-harderI guess now there will be students thinking about dropping the class. They’ll be worried about their GPA (that precious, weird and destructive statistic unique to US education). The alternative strategy, and one I need to encourage among the poorly-performing students is to seize control, NOWReview all the material, pop quizzes and class tests to date. Identify the misunderstandings. Figure them out. I you can’t, ask the TAs, or ask me after class, or at the review sessions we will put on

Each year at this point, I get a little nervous. Will 100 students waste their time and money and abandon the course? Can I lift those students by lifting my game? At least I have experience now. This course rewards those who try effectively. Each year there are startling improvements which give me great pleasure. No grades are set in stone yet: I take the best two of four class tests, so there is still everything to play for. Game on.

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