How to improve your grade: wisdom from the class of 2015

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. At the start of the semester, I blogged about what they said about learning better, and then I discussed it in class.

Here’s what they said about how to get a higher grade. Most of the advice (90%) covered just two things: blogging and exam review sessions. I want to discuss this feedback in class today because we are coming up to the first exam review sessions, and Blog Period 2 deadline is the end of next week.

The advice, in order:

  1. Go to exam review sessions.
  2. Spend more time on blogs
    • blog regularly
    • blog more
    • don’t leave blogging until the last minute
    • start blogging earlier
    • reach out to the TAs for advice on the blog entries
    • apply blog feedback
    • add more of your own analysis to the blog
    • blog all three periods
  3.  Prepare better for tests
    • go over previous tests; keep answers
    • each test builds on the last, so understand the early tests
    • take all tests even though only two count
    • ask TAs and Andrew about things you don’t understand
  4. Do better on the tests
    • think hard and always be critical
    • read questions thoroughly
    • allow enough time during the test to think hard
  5. Take advantage of extra credits

As with the learning advice, it was shocking to me to get back from the students stuff I had been telling them all semester.

(Parenthetically, the students also offered me some advice:
1. Ban cell phones
2. Make first blog period mandatory.
I am working on #1. On #2: my experience with the mandatory plagiarism test this year tells me to never make anything else ‘mandatory’. What do you do with the ones that fail to do it?

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