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exams (rant part II)

Ross Koning koning at ecsuc.ctstateu.edu
Tue Mar 7 09:06:39 EST 2000

At 5:37 PM -0600 3/3/00, Monique Reed wrote:
>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.


I agree with you on the "old exams" situation too.
But I have chosen to make these old exams quite
challenging and comprehensive. If they use the old
exams, they will have necessarily learned at least
the breadth of coverage I want. I have decided that
I really don't care WHAT the motivation is that makes
them learn. If they think they are "pulling one
over on me" by having an old test, I've got news for
them...they learned some botany by hook or by crook!
And perhaps by my leaking some old tests out I have
achieved my goal!!

Yes, I too am sick of blank stares, no answers to
questions posed in class, books that still crackle
with newness when I force a student to open them,
but there is one I hate the most...

"Will we get out early from lab today?" posed even
before the lab begins.

I have had the "skull sessions" to find out what
they want. They want the general education requirements
changed so there is no lab science needed. They want
their tests to be 100% multiple guess. They want classes
to be less than 20 minutes long (probably an attention
span estimate?). They would rather spout their opinion
on a subject (with no supporting evidence) than investigate
an organism's response to a stimulus. They don't want
to hear that the "real world" has no multiple-choice
exams or that they will be stuck in an office on their
job facing problems that will not be solved in 20 minutes
but will require many hours of concentration.

In terms of the vocabulary items you mentioned, my
pet peeves are the columns (pedestals), bicycle parts
(pedals), handguns (pistols), and bones (carpals) in
flower diagrams on tests and lab exercises. When these
are pointed out (YAWN) I only "get" them when I switch
to ridicule about:

"probly goin to the liberry in febuary to study nucular

This is followed by the "say it right, spell it right,"
"show someone you have at least a few neurons in your
head" story.

Now for the disclaimer...my biology majors students
are really quite a different group at ECSU. They work
pretty hard to learn, are motivated in my courses,
are really excited about botany because for the first
time they see plants as truly alive. They like to
work in the greenhouse studying the growth, development,
and responses of plants to stimuli. They like growing
plants in petri dishes under lights in the classroom
too. They like lab exercises that have no cookbook
approach, but that they decide how and what to test.
So, I think I can credit my colleagues in the department
for being part of a "culture" of inquiry that is very
much alive and well in the biology department at ECSU.
My beef, about the general ed students, probably reflects
a failure to achieve such a culture among majors in
other departments on campus. The idea that you can
spout opinions without evidence is a reflection of
attitudes (and practices) in certain social "science"
departments on our campus.

Ross Koning                 | koning at ecsu.ctstateu.edu
Biology Department          | http://koning.ecsu.ctstateu.edu/
Eastern CT State University | phone: 860-465-5327
Willimantic, CT 06226 USA   | fax: 860-465-4479

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