But I finally finished the exam for introductory biology. There were two huge problems.
- Never again will I give a take-home multiple choice exam. I thought I was being generous: 16 multiple choice questions, one multi-part essay question, and I even gave them a form to fill in. Somehow, many of them didn’t follow the instructions. A form with a space to put in A, B, C, or D for the answer? Nope. Many wrote out answers. What I thought would be an easy grading exercise turned into a nightmare. If I were to do it again, I’d be extremely obvious and specific in how to answer.
- Scores were abysmal, but that’s on me. I didn’t spend enough time going over the problems…so now I have to backtrack and cover the material again and give them some more exercises to try out.
Now I have to collapse in a soggy heap. Tomorrow it begins again with an exam from my second course.
Be as specific as you like, PZ. Some of them will misconstrue it anyway. Students are never more creative than when (mis)interpreting exam instructions. Tell them you require exact answers, and they’ll give you 1.04719755 instead of π/3 (if they get there at all). Tell them they are required to show their work, and some of them will simply write a magical answer in the answer blank and blithely move on. The good news is that typically they do better in the later courses in a multi-course sequence, but sometimes the winnowing in course #1 is difficult to witness. Read and follow the instructions, guys! That’s a big part of it! (Too big, I fear.) And, of course, no one understands “Festina lente.”
Ray Ceeya says
You know PZ, reading your blog every day for the last decade has given me serious respect for how hard you profs work. I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.