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exams (rant part II)

Grant R. Cramer cramer at med.unr.edu
Fri Mar 3 19:24:35 EST 2000

I have also encountered this attitude. I now take it as a given that most of
my students are not seriously interested in plants. So I do things to keep
them involved and force them to keep up. For example, I give weekly quizzes.
I also email bonus questions after each class. For my general plant biology
class, I made of major overhaul of the format, to try to make it more
interesting to the student so that they were motivated to learn. I also
included field trips and debates on serious issues, so that I am actually
turning a number of students on to plants who weren't previously interested.
I would suggest that you exam what your goals in the class are (what do you
hope or think your students will come away with) and then figure out how you
can best achieve it. That's what I had to do.
Hope that helps,
Grant R. Cramer
Associate Professor
Mail Stop 200
Department of Biochemistry
University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557
phone: (775) 784-4204
fax: (775) 784-1650
email: cramer at unr.edu
web page: http://www.ag.unr.edu/cramer/

> From: Monique Reed <monique at mail.bio.tamu.edu>
> Organization: Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
> Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2000 17:37:25 -0600
> To: plant-ed at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk
> Subject: Re: exams (rant part II)
>> I'm sorry for your plight.  Are your students freshmen or upper >level
>> students?  Liberal arts majors?  Future physicians?  Future >Ph.D.-level
>> botanists?
> They are 93 sophomore, junior, and senior students.  Most are wildlife
> majors who wish to know nothing about plants and only want to get a
> job as a game manager.  (Translation--they like to hunt and that's the
> closest major. They just want their C or D so they can graduate.) The
> balance are largely biology majors who want to go to med school or do
> biochem.  Only a very few begin this course (required in both degree
> plans) even open to the idea that plants are interesting.  We parade
> the richest spring flora on the continent in front of them and they
> yawn. We try to point out the plants that wildlife use, the poisonous
> ones, the ones they will run across in their work.  More yawns. We
> give them a dedicated and enthusiastic instructor, two bright and
> enthusiastic teaching assistants, and one full-time lab coordinator
> (me.)
> I doubt one in ten reads the textbook before or after going to class,
> and probably the same proportion does any studying farther ahead than
> 2 days before the exam.  They don't do the review questions and they
> don't come to tutorial sections. They're not stupid, they have simply
> managed to come through 3 years of college with no study skills, no
> ability to follow directions, and no idea that their future jobs will
> require that they learn, know, and do things they don't necessarily
> want to.  My suggestion that they set aside some time each week to
> study and review *even if there's not a test* is met with blank
> stares.  THAT is where the disconnect is happening.  They work at
> various jobs, they party, they watch TV, they look at nothing but the
> old exams, they do the bare minimum in lab, they they do everything
> except try to learn the material.
> At the end of the semester, we will remind them how little taxonomy
> they knew at the start, and some will be glad and surprised at what
> they have managed to learn.  They will tell us it was a lot of work
> but that they enjoyed it.  Some will even come back a few years down
> the line and thank us for setting a high standard.  The rest will
> forget every shred of key work, vocabulary, and plent-family
> characters on the way to the first kegger.
> Monique Reed
>> It might help to put together a focus group of 6-8 students from that class
>> with whom you could explore your concerns more fully.  Pizza or Chinese food
>> would be  a help.  Perhaps one of your colleagues or some grad students might
>> want to sit in and facilitate the flow of ideas and try to find where the
>> disconnect is happening.  Does your institution have an
>> instructional development center that might help?


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