Excuse-busting


Via a number of edublogs this morning, we have this web page by Dr. Steven Dutch, in which he mercilessly skewers excuses given to him by his students. Here are his responses to the two I get the most:

I Studied for Hours

How many? A college credit is defined as three hours’ work per week; one in class and two outside. That’s why adding a three-hour lab to a class only results in one additional credit.

This means that 12 credits translates to an average of 36 hours’ work a week. That’s why 12 credits is considered full time; it’s the equivalent of a full-time job. [ed.: Sounds like something I’ve blogged about before.]

If you have a course that meets three hours a week for 3 credits but doesn’t require six hours of outside work a week to keep up, consider yourself lucky. Other courses may require more time. Also, individual students require different amounts of study time. It does no good to complain that three hours a week per credit is excessive, any more than it does to complain that 26 miles is too long for a marathon. They are what they are.

The one thing you can count on is that a few hours of cramming before the final will not give good results. I recently heard from a student who lamented that she stayed up until 2 A.M. studying, then got up at 6 A.M. and studied some more, and did poorly. And she was surprised? She’d have been better off getting a decent night’s sleep.

And this:

I Know The Material – I Just Don’t Do Well on Exams

Leprechauns, unicorns, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, hobbits, orcs – and students who know the material but don’t do well on exams. Mythical creatures.

I’ve met students who claim to know the material but not do well on exams, but when you press them, it turns out they don’t know the material after all. If you can’t answer questions about the material or apply the knowledge in an unfamiliar context, you don’t know it. You might have vague impressions of specific ideas, but if you can’t describe them in detail and relate them to other ideas, you don’t know the material.

My wife will argue with me about this one, because she’s always said she’s a bad test-taker. But I’m really believing more and more in Prof. Dutch’s point of view. You just can’t do poorly on a test if you know the material — once we understand what to know really means. The problem usually consists in the fact that the student’s idea of "knowing" something is way out of line with the goals of the course.

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Filed under Education, Higher ed, Life in academia, Student culture, Teaching

2 responses to “Excuse-busting

  1. Jami

    I really like his comment about the memorization issue. Good points about creativity!

  2. My discussion of this bad v. good test-taker issue is here.