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First Semester Impressions

December 19, 2011

Here are some non-physics-specific impressions after my first semester here:

Academic misconduct (i.e.., cheating) is way more common than it should be.  We had a serious outbreak of cheating this final’s season, across many courses. Upon further review of cases, it seems that some students had been cheating the entire semester. In other cases, students accused of cheating seemed only to care if they’d still get a D, so they wouldn’t have to retake it.  There is something wrong with this level of conspiring and dismissiveness. Our department is currently reviewing our own policies.

Way too many students study way too little. Unofficial polling in our general education courses suggest that most students don’t read the text, and most students spend little to no time studying outside class except for maybe the week of an exam.

Working full-time and going to school full-time is a juggling act not well-balanced by most students.

Public universities have too many general education requirements. I’d like to think if we build great courses, students will come. Maybe that’s crazy of me to think. Instead, we require them to come, and they don’t read or study. Go figure.

Grading and assessment in college typically swings way too far on the side of reliability (i.e., fairness and consistency) than on validity (i.e., meaning and value).  I’m not saying consistency is not important. I’m saying that being consistently meaningless is a big problem.

There is something perverse about graduate classes being small and general education courses being large. To quote a colleague, “Those who need the most support for learning are put in the worst learning situation ever.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 19, 2011 8:50 pm

    This post has completely bummed me out. I remember my first semester as a TA (in a ‘reformed’ class, no less) thinking, “I think 90% of this was a waste of everyone’s time… And to the degree that it was worthwhile, it was because of signaling – not for meaningful reasons.” (Signaling in the economic sense… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signalling_%28economics%29#The_result). Seems like successfully cheating signals something, too. And if your reason to go to college is to “signal” – then, well, the game is something different than if it’s for other reasons.

    A book that further bummed me out was Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect, which I read my first year here (and I think I called David Hammer afterwards in near tears), and one that restored me (read just last year) was Schwartz’ Practical Wisdom.

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