Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Yesterday I mentioned my hatred of stupid questions, but in some ways I'd rather get the stupid question emails than the advice emails.

I dread the emails that read "I try really hard, and I feel I know the material, but when I get to the exam, I get tense and confused. Now I'm getting a D and we only have 1 exam left. What can I do?"

I still haven't figured out how to give a good answer to this that doesn't sound like 1) you just can't cut it in the class, suck it up and accept your D; 2) you should have come to me after exam 1, not before the final; 3) study harder.

I typically respond with same haphazard advice about study skills... taking notes while reading, writing out answers to the study guide, creating your own examples of the concepts. I have no idea if this advice helps. I've never had a student come back and say, wow that really helped me! I think too many of them are too far behind by the time they ask for help, that advice isn't going to help.

I had one student last semester who was a freshman who APed out of the intro level class and ended up in my 300 level class. She nearly cried in my office after the first exam and first paper when she got Cs on both. She explained that she never got a C in her life. But from what she explained of her study skills and approach to writing, she was clearly still working with a high school mentality and didn't realize that college requires more time and effort. You can't just make a few notecards with definitions and hope to do well on the exam. At least she came to me very early on, and turned around her approach and got an A in the class.

These others who wait until before the final exam, I feel helpless at helping them. They've already established their bad habits for the class and breaking them before the last exam is an enormous amount of work.

What many of them don't realize either is that if I were to take away the extra credit, their C or D is suddenly an F. That's one of the pitfalls I think of extra credit is that it "fools" the student into thinking they are doing better in the class than they really are.

Anyway, I guess my main question is how to you give advice to a student on how to study better for the final when it is painfully obvious that they are going to get a D no matter what at this point?

Sorry for the rambling today. I couldn't sleep last night and was up until 4-ish. Then I stayed in bed into nearly noon. Now I'm running out of time to prep my lecture and get to office hours before my class. And all I want to do today is crawl back in bed...


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