I’ve cautioned against asking “what are the students like?” in the past, but upon changing institutions it seems broad enough to use as a starting point for comparisons. The short answer is “not that different,” though this perception is influenced by the courses I’ve taught so far and the students in them. With that caveat, below are some initial thoughts:
There were fewer very weak students but not many more very strong students. Grading assignments and exams for last semester’s courses sometimes seemed like wading through a sea of mediocrity. Most students didn’t fail at anything but there were very few solid As. Instead, there were a lot of students between B- and B+.
Writing skills were better. This may seem counterintuitive given the above point, but my students last semester were much better writers overall than those at my previous institution. As a result, I was more able to focus on their ideas in my feedback, which was nice, even if their…
Ideas were not better. Despite the ability to string together coherent sentences, these sentences did not typically contain ideas or insights that were any better than those at my previous institution.
Ability to follow directions was still lacking. Whether using ASA format or including all of the required parts of each assignment, many students made relatively simple mistakes in following directions.
Students still need time to put things together. Exam grades last semester were typically about 10-12% higher than those for the same course at my previous institution, but they followed the same pattern. One student even admitted that she did not study for the first exam. Nevertheless, most students did well on the final exam and most who had poor midterm grades were able to improve.
Together, the above factors suggest that the bottom of the distribution may have been cut off, but college students are still college students. This also supports the “an excellent student here would be an excellent student anywhere” adage. The generally-better writing skills were the most noticeable change, though their combination with some of the other factors above led to the best-written C paper I’ve ever read.
It is far too early to get a sense of my students this semester, but it will be interesting to see if these patterns hold over time.
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