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Archive for February 16th, 2010

After another rash of first-exam failures, this time in another course, I have identified what I am calling the “wait-and-see approach to exams.” In this approach, students view the first exam as an unknown entity.  Because they do not know what to expect from a professor in terms of exam style, difficulty, and grading they apply minimal effort in their studying.  “Maybe,” they think, “this professor writes easier exams and grades more leniently than all prior professors, in which case spending three or even four hours studying would be a monumental waste of my time.  By waiting to see how the first exam goes after 10 minutes of studying I can minimize my effort and in the event that it is unwarranted.”  (An alternative approach would be to over-study for the first exam in the event that a professor writes harder exams and grades more stringently than all prior professors.  I suspect that these students exist in much smaller numbers than their wait-and-see counterparts.)  Alternative explanations for this performance are that “they just don’t care,” that “Dr. Smith doesn’t show enough videos to keep students interested for an entire 50 minutes,” that “like this year’s East coast snowstorms, this class of poor students is an anomaly and is likely never to be seen again,” and that “Dr. Smith is a poor professor.”  The final option has been rejected in the interest of mental health.  Besides, at least I’m trying.

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