Re: The testing process

1

Is it possible the majority of the students who did question 5 did so after spending too long on an earlier question and giving up?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:49 AM
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I think they failed to perceive what made problem 5 tricky altogether - they thought it was a very straight-forward definition chasing problem. Problem 4 superficially resembled a hard homework problem, but was actually an easier, related problem. Problem 2 was a very straight-forward computation problem - my best guess is that they looked at the instructions and thought it would be more time-consuming than it is. (That's actually a more problematic categorization error - you should be able to look at problem 2 and think "Easy!", more easily than you should be able to look at problem 5 and think "Subtle!")


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:56 AM
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... OTOH, there's a real skill in research - can you recognize which problems will be easily unravelled, and which ones take more insight? Do I care that I am testing them on that?

Realistically how many of your students (even in an upper level course) are going to become researchers?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:06 AM
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I think that's a great metacognitive skill to teach. It might be better though, to randomize the order of the questions, so the students actually have to use their knowledge of math to judge the difficulty of the question, rather than their knowledge of the convention that more difficult questions come later.

If I were doing it, I would continue to do tests that way, and include a little bit of explicit coaching about how to strategize this sort of thing.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:16 AM
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Every test measures the ability to take tests, but mastery of a topic includes the ability to assess the nature of a problem.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:19 AM
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3: Oh, one at best. But explicitly the point of an upper level math class is (in part) to expose them to what math as an academic discipline is like.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:19 AM
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Realistically how many of your students (even in an upper level course) are going to become researchers?

Assessing the difficulty of the probably solving tasks in front of you is a general purpose skill. The question is whether calc problems will generalize to other sorts of logical puzzle solving.

Based on what HBGB said about problem 2, I'd say it would generalize. You should be able to recognize that straight computational problems are easier--if more boring--than other problems.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:19 AM
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For some reason, my children have turned out to be stubborn and argumentative.

|>


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:21 AM
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Is that really what I want to be assessing in a test?

Why did you include the fifth problem at all?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:22 AM
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Hey, this apple keeps arguing with the tree!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:23 AM
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What I really want to know, though, is if you will tell them about the increasing difficulty of the problems, about those who attempted problem five, about the actual straightforwardness of problem two, et cetera.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:24 AM
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9: Why did I give them a choice to omit a problem at all? Or why do I think that problem is worth including?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:24 AM
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The former.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:25 AM
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On the hardest math-related classes I took there were occasionally optional problems on the tests but they were explicitly marked as such (Otto, if he were ever around, could confirm or dispute this).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:26 AM
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13: From the OP:

the class is only 50 minutes long and that seems to be the best way to help students not tank the entire test by spending too long on one question.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:28 AM
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15

This doesn't seem like the best way to protect your students from themselves. Did any of the students ignore the directions and attempt all five problems?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:48 AM
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15: This is supposed to help them do better, but from your description it sounds like the average score would have been higher if you had just not included the 5th question. Is that right?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:53 AM
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Back in the mists of time when I was doing these things, tests with a dozen questions on the paper and instructions to attempt three or four were pretty much the default. Four out of five, not so much. I'm not getting why you didn't either give them four questions (if you thought that was appropriate to the available time) and say, "Answer these!", or give them a wider choice if you wanted them to have a chance to play to their different strengths.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:55 AM
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It strikes me that the OP is referring to the easy/hard spectrum as objective fact. Is that really the case? Just wondering, because back in the day when I had exams asking me to choose 2 out of 3, or 4 out of 5, I'd judge the easiness and hardness of the questions based on my own strengths and weaknesses (I knew upon a quick scan that I was weak in what question 3 was asking for). What was harder for me might not be harder for you.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:02 AM
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yeah, I don't know. Obviously there's math knowledge necessary to recognize what's a hard problem or not, but there's also a kind of tactical thinking required, which can be taught (at least to a point) with some effort and is probably helpful in life, but probably isn't the goal of your math class. I think it's the sort of thing which allow some people to do well on standardized tests or IQ tests, even though they may not have a better grasp of the material. On some level though, this type of thinking might be more helpful longterm to your students than the math content, as it's applicable in many more situations.

One thing you could do is have the lowest test score not count for the grade, or the lowest and highest both not count, as I've had teachers do, to avoid an outlier grad based on being poor at test taking.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:03 AM
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What 18 said. I'm used to seeing tests that either ask you to answer all the questions, or a fixed number from a much larger set. Sometimes with rules.

Typical first or second year, say, philosophy exam would be something like:

'Answer any 3 questions [from a list of about 16]. You must answer at least one question each from Section A,* and Section B.**'

* questions about specific philosophers or texts.

** general question about problems, which the student could answer without reference to particular texts, or philosophers.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:05 AM
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Based on comment 2, it seems like recognizing the problem is related to mathematical skills, so that's fair. But you gave them very little time to do it and the results of choosing wrong sound disastrous. What I would do is grade each question on its own separate curve, so if you do relatively well on #5 compared to other test takers you can get a fair amount of points even if you flubbed the problem overall. Then grade question 4 somewhat tougher, etc. That should still leave room for differentiating grades based on good problem selection, but you can choose exactly how much.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:07 AM
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22 is an interesting approach.

21 is my own experience of how philosophy exams go as well. These questions fall into different categories. Wouldn't it be the same in math? (Maybe computational questions are a different sort from definitional ones which are a different sort from whatever question 5 was. You'd want to test for each of those skills, unless you're testing for the ability to discern which type of question takes the least amount of time or whatever.)

Can you determine anything from the order in which people answered the questions?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:22 AM
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||

There's a librarian on the radio who's referring to the people who take out books as "our customers". Grr. Patrons.

|>


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:33 AM
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I just gave an examwhere I wrote four pairs of parallel questions, and gave each student one from each pair, randomly. While I tried to make the questions in each pair equally hard, this way I will see what people did better on, and can learn more about what the class as a whole understands than if I gave them all the same exam. (Also, it makes it harder for them to cheat, which sadly is a consideration this year.) Implicitly testing them on recognizing how hard problems will be without doing them seems ... rather subtle.


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:53 AM
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the class is only 50 minutes long and that seems to be the best way to help students not tank the entire test by spending too long on one question.

Right, and apparently doing all five questions would amount to spending too long, so why not just have four questions?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 11:12 AM
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If some questions are obviously harder than others, I don't even know why they're weighted equally.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 11:20 AM
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OT: after a great and interesting season, what horrible results from the Divisional Series. Cards-Giants is pretty much Stalin-Hitler, and the Yankees are like an even worse Stalin. Go Tigers.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 11:20 AM
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I always found that good teachers didn't make excuses for their students, and vice versa. They just graded the tests and tried to learn from their mistakes.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 11:32 AM
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I don't even know!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 11:38 AM
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Was 27 a stupid question? I've certainly seen tests in which there was a question followed by something like "(15 points)" and another question followed by "(7 points)".

Obviously that signals to the student the level of perceived difficulty of the question, so heebie's original question still stands: is there anything in trying to foster skills in determining the easiest/most routine problems to tackle first? Of course. Is heebie's test the way to go about it? I'd say no. Just teach that explicitly -- why not?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 12:02 PM
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The Yankees are Mao.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 12:08 PM
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31: Based on 2, I think it's hard for a teacher to tell in advance how students are going to misperceive questions - one knows too much.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 12:17 PM
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33: You can really only tell how students misperceive questions by looking at answers over several semesters.

31: Weighted point values could reflect the importance of the skill or idea being tested, or the length of time the teacher thinks it will take an average student to complete an exercise. Short answer questions might be weighted more than multiple choice.

29: I try to structure things so that the only ways to fuck an assignment up are ways that are tied to lessons I am trying to teach. If part of the task involves outside skills or information that the students might not have I generally give them that information or perform that part of the task for them.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 12:31 PM
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Way back in the day and in another country, math exams were structured as more questions than could be completed in the time allowed with instructions to attempt as many questions as one could, sometimes with the caveat that one should attempt at least one question from each section. Grading was based on a reasonable expectation of how much an A vs a D student could accomplish in the time.

So I came to this country and set exams like that. The students hated it. I tried to explain that this way they got to answer questions on what they knew rather than having to get lucky, but they were having none of it. An exam which couldn't be completed was WRONG. Good students expected to walk out early.

Students have test taking habits which are based on the set of tests they've previously encountered. A different type of test will automatically be disruptive of those habits. And students will make wrong choices given that their test taking expectations have been disrupted.

Do you really want to disrupt their expectations?


Posted by: Jim | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 12:50 PM
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Jim: by "this country" do you mean the US? What you describe at first sounds like every math test I had in college...


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 1:24 PM
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Do you really want to disrupt their expectations?

That relates to a lesson I'm trying to teach, so, yes.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 1:26 PM
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HEEBIE, INSTEAD OF GIVING YOUR STUDENTS TESTS ON CALCULUS, YOU SHOULD EXPLAIN TO THEM HOW SEX WORKS, AND THEN THEY WOULD REALIZE THAT THEIR ACTUAL PROBLEM IS THAT THEY HATE THEIR PARENTS.


Posted by: OPINIONATED A.S. NEILL | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 1:40 PM
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The most surprising thing to me is the idea that tests have a fixed conversion from points to letter grades.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 1:42 PM
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35

My HS trig teacher designed tests like that. They were extremely long and the final questions were impossibly difficult, but he just wanted to see what we knew. Then he would curve it to 20% A, 15% B, 10% C, etc. They were nerve wracking tests, and probably too much on the difficult side, but I don't think anyone complained too much, at least not compared to some of his other behaviors, like wandering in and out of the classroom while teaching.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 1:44 PM
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When I took QM in college (the only physics class I took), apparently the prof. had not taught undergraduates recently and had wildly wrong ideas about how quickly people could do hard calculations. The first midterm was 8 questions in an hour and a half, and the median score was just above 1 correct answer.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 2:13 PM
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I don't know how you teach lessons by writing exam questions your students can't answer and then giving them the answers. I don't think any of my teachers would ever have done that, but who knows, time passes and standards fall.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 2:24 PM
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25 - A/B testing! That's great.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 2:26 PM
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21 - IIRC, my midterms and finals in undergraduate history classes usually provided a study guide in advance with something on the order of eight possible questions on it; the exams themselves would be four of these, and we'd have to answer two.

32 - Taking Tigers Mountain (By Moneyball)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 2:44 PM
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The Yankees are Stalin if he'd lived long enough to respond to the Doctor' Plot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 3:02 PM
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Someone's always plotting against the yankees, but the yankees are always taking everyone's rosters away from them. Moneyball doesn't always work.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 3:49 PM
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My only problem with Jim's system is that it rewards people who solve problems faster, not necessarily people who solve problems more accurately. You could make an argument that solving problems quickly is an important skill and therefore valid to test for, but I'd argue that quickness at problem solving is mostly an innate skill rather than a learned one. Which means that it simply rewards the brilliant students for being brilliant and does little to test how much a student has learned in the class.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 4:39 PM
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Snow!

|>


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 5:46 PM
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The main thing about snow in Alaska is that the Eskimos who live in Mt McKinley National Park have 20 different words for it.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 6:06 PM
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That's some impressive trolling there, Rob.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 6:19 PM
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Thanks. I do my best.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 6:26 PM
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If only there was some way to assess that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:00 PM
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"Troll four out of the following five threads."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:15 PM
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Somebody could make a mint with Troll Academy, somehow or other.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:18 PM
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the yankees have like 20 different words for stalin.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:19 PM
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The Pirates have exactly 20 different words for consecutive losing seasons.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:21 PM
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I don't even have 20 words.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:29 PM
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Nor does anyone else?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:36 PM
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Saturday nights tend to be pretty quiet.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:37 PM
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You know what is a good exercise in writing with an artificially limited vocabulary? I'll tell you: it's Harry Mathews' short story "Their Words, For You", the words employed in which are all drawn from a set of 46 proverbs ("When in Rome, do as the Romans do", "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs", etc.). Here's are the first and fourth paragraphs. The first:

Another morning, another egg. The sky was up early. It had rained all night: to you and me sleeping, the storm was a delight. In the east, morning clouds are building a kingdom of red and silver. Time for you to get up! Come into the kingdom of morning delight! Come into the omelet of morning delight, and come as egg!

And the fourth:

You go with me down fences that teach the intentions of the men that dispose the grass. A horse waits at a fence; another rolls on the grass, breaking wind. (Good for the horse—one should break wind when one has to, putting it off does no good.) At the side of the road dead grass is burning, old sticks and grass, burning silver in the morning. The road is a delight, with water on one side, oaks and grass on the other; and the grass leads away to another water. In the oaks you once gathered bird's eggs from moss.

The effect is quite striking, especially if the first time you read it you don't—as I didn't—cotton to the game.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:37 PM
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Pooping!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:37 PM
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Oh hey I was going to be like "that's one!" but nosflow to the rescue.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:38 PM
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Saturday nights tend to be pretty quiet.

But I'm in an airport! Amuse me!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:40 PM
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nosflow has amused me.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:40 PM
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Seems like you're always in an airport. We're not made of amusement here.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:41 PM
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At least I'm not. Maybe neb is.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:42 PM
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essear has already worked his way through all the airport bookstores have to offer and anyhow "Fifty Shades of Cabo" is just so obviously an unimaginative cash-in that who could even.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:44 PM
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Now Sifu, there's a guy who's made of amusement.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:45 PM
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I haven't been flying much for the last, I don't know, six months or so.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:46 PM
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I poop amusement! Whee! Look at it down there!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:46 PM
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We're not made of amusement here.

Well, whatever the Alaskan analogue is. Amoosement.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:47 PM
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We are made of that, it's true.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:47 PM
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Presumably this is your last chunk of hardcore flying for a while, what with the puppy shortly getting too big to stuff in a carry-on.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:48 PM
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Amoosemeat?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:48 PM
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75

Several people are mounting a concerted campaign to convince me to apply for a couple of jobs this year. I was planning to stay put for a pretty long time. But they might be wearing me down?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:50 PM
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I figure most of you have probably already seen the moose picture I put on Facebook yesterday, but I added it to the Flickr group just in case.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:51 PM
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75: what, really? That is entirely fascinating. What kind of crazy-ass laser puppy are they tempting you with?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:53 PM
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After listening to David Olney's "Jerusalem Tomorrow" I've been thinking I might make a Jesus-themed mix.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:56 PM
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77: Check your email.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:57 PM
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What about MY email!?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:57 PM
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Should Sifu check it as well?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:57 PM
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Yes, Sifu should check neb's email.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:58 PM
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I think my flight might be boarding now. I should probably go find the gate.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 7:58 PM
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Heebie, to original question: I used to do something similar but I wold weight the questions by difficulty. So for something like your example there might be two 5 pt, 3 10 pt, 2 15 pt. test out of 50 and they could do whatever mix they wanted. Another slight difference, I would mark anything they did, so this was 70 possible points and anything over 50 would still count to overall mark. Nobody ever got close to perfect, but a few times people would get 55/55 or something.


Posted by: Delurking | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:00 PM
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24: When I was finishing social work school I heard there was a movement away from calling clients (nee patients) and toward calling them consumers. Great, because focusing on a financial transaction in which they are probably largely uninvolved is a particularly healing form of positive regard.

Sometimes when I read about math tests I wonder if I could do math beyond geometry at all anymore. (I know I can do a little geometry because it's on the GED and I killed!) The last time I took a math class may well have been 1991, and though I was sort of good at it then, life in the working world has a way of deadening one's intellect.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:00 PM
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Dammit. That was me. On a new laptop and having a little fight with it about how it should preserve my identity.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:01 PM
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FWIW, In my experience the best upper division math exams are oral. This is only practical in small honours classes, and even there the weaker students hate them. But it gets around all these problems and is accurate.


Posted by: Delurking | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:05 PM
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When I was finishing social work school I heard there was a movement away from calling clients (nee patients) and toward calling them consumers

BG mentioned something along those lines a while ago and I found it infuriating, but I can't find the thread even though I recall myself as having said something clever in it.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:05 PM
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Ah ha!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:06 PM
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85.1: We always used "consumer" but I never actually talked to anybody receiving services so it probably didn't matter.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:07 PM
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I once asked my astrophysicist friend, with whom I used to do Mathletics in high school*, what I should do to try to re-educate myself in math, and he suggested puzzles. I found some good, challenging math and logic sites but it was hard to find anything in the sweet spot -- most were too hard and a few were too easy.

I think if I had done it the way I trained myself to do the Nation crossword -- done four with the answers right there, worked them out, then started fresh -- it might have taken off. Alas.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:08 PM
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*NERD ALERT


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:08 PM
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91 to 85.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:08 PM
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The consumption thing is funny and that looks like an interesting thread or at least sub-thread and I wonder why I don't remember reading it.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 8:13 PM
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I'm going to be in airports all day tomorrow. Don't use up the amusement, folks.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:18 PM
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(I might make a break for it when I'm in Chicago, though. Anyone have any suggestions for something I can do in a few hours on a Sunday afternoon out near the airport?)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:22 PM
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I'm pretty sure there is nothing very entertaining near the airport. You could take a cab to Ikea in Schaumburg! I mean, how much time do you have? I always jokingly tell people with a layover at O'Hare (wait, I should say ORD. I've noticed that people who travel only speak of airports by their codes, so I basically never have any idea where anyone is going) they should take the blue line to Western and get an ice cream soda at Margie's.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:41 PM
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54: Somebody could make a mint with Troll Academy

Actually, it's a nonprofit.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 9:52 PM
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4.5 hours. It's enough time to really do something.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:25 PM
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I've noticed that people who travel only speak of airports by their codes

This is really only true of a few airports.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:32 PM
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I'm slowly picking up math I knew 15+ years ago. I guess I should be encouraged by the fact that so far the stuff I want to re-learn wasn't difficult for me to learn the first time but instead I've been finding it difficult just to read the notation. It's like math has become intimidating since I last saw it. And I haven't even gotten to reviewing calculus yet. But this is all in the context of computer science, so that adds unfamiliarity and means that I'm not learning the math as math, IYKWIM.

Anyway, I don't think I ever had a math test where you weren't expected to be able to attempt all questions, but I had math and physics tests where the assignment of points to grades was based on the distribution of the scores (not exactly a traditional curve, but an A might be 90/100 on one test, 80/100 on another).


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 10:47 PM
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I think people use the airport codes enough I can name a number of them, not having flown in years. ORD, LGA, SFO, LAX, DFW, LHR...maybe not so many. I have one friend who is scarcely ever in NYC, has a rule that he can only get his hair cut in other countries, and he always posts these itineraries on facebook that are purely opaque to me. I guess most people don't do that.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 11:10 PM
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ORD, LGA, SFO, LAX, DFW, LHR...maybe not so many.

BWI and PDX also occur to me offhand, along with JFK, of course, which may not count. Most others are transparently related to the city name and rarely used in place of it, IME.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 11:21 PM
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MDW, SEA

I used to know the code for John Wayne Airport but it seems to have escaped me.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-13-12 11:25 PM
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"DCA" allows one to avoid idolatry.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:31 AM
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105: As would have IDL, but see mists of time, lost to the. And at least Houston is still IAH and Anchorage ANC.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:43 AM
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I've definitely had plenty of "omit one" tests. I'm not sure if it was undergraduate, graduate, or both, but it was a common format.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:09 AM
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Also, you might weight harder questions more than easy questions, but that's going to bring down everyone's grade. You want to weight easier questions significantly so that they can build up points.

Also, I wouldn't rigidly assign A,B,C,D to the 90,80,70,60 cut-offs without looking at the distribution. It happens to be the case that under these cut-offs, a few students made an A, a few more made a B, and a bunch made a C, so there's no need to make new cut-offs.

(And actually, I don't do anything with letter grades until I need to convert their semester average to a letter. But for clarity on the post, it made the point quickly.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:25 AM
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In my experience the best upper division math exams are oral.

I actually never took an oral math exam. I'm not opposed to them in principle, but having never gone through the experience it would be tough for me to design the situation with the student clearly in mind.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:32 AM
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Also, you might weight harder questions more than easy questions, but that's going to bring down everyone's grade. You want to weight easier questions significantly so that they can build up points.

I don't quite understand what this means? You mean you want to make it easier for people to get higher marks?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:43 AM
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It doesn't mean anything that couldn't also be achieved by curving grades, etc, but it's nice if a terrible student who works hard can get a C by answering the easy questions and attempting the harder questions. If your easy questions are are worth barely any points, then you've knee-capped that student at an F.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:47 AM
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Keep in mind that some people in this class just want to be high school math teachers. It's a good class for them to take and work hard in, but there's no point in making it a situation where they're doomed to get an F.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:50 AM
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I still don't really understand, but I suspect that's just about differences in grading culture. Curving grades, and so on. Or assigning grade boundaries after the fact. Not common practice, I don't think, here.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:54 AM
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I'm not sure why you're confused. I'm not curving grades or assigning boundaries after the fact. All I'm doing is providing enough points available through easier questions that all students can achieve an appropriate grade.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:02 AM
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I dunno, I don't think coddling people helps them learn. But maybe you have evidence to the contrary?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:13 AM
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I dunno, I don't think coddling people helps them learn. But maybe you have evidence to the contrary?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:13 AM
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double posted, sorry


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:14 AM
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I think a lower end student has mastered some of the material when they get a C. They're clear on the definitions and computations, and can write a straight-forward proof. I don't see why I should make a class so hard that many of the future high school teachers can't pass it, when it's required for graduation.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:21 AM
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So I take it you're not actually giving your students the answers?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:32 AM
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118. So you're defining the appropriate difficulty level for the test as, "Such that a lower end student can get a C"; or alternatively you're defining a C as, "The typical performance of a lower end (but hard working) student on this test." Either seems fair. But I still don't see the point of having the fifth question in there at all.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:51 AM
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110: yes, you would typically have enough easy, core material points that anyone who knew the basic material could pick up a passing grade. Ten a few more challenging bits to differentiate the ones who understand more deeply. Finally a few harder questions to see who is really on top of things. I would usually have one question on something we had not covered, but that you could work out in a straightforward way from what we had done.


Posted by: Delurking | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:54 AM
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I dunno. Like I said above, IME it's a common format.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:54 AM
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Soup Biscuit?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:56 AM
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One of my grievances with my son's public school was excessive use of numerical, rather than letter grades, which kneecaps inconsistent students. If you ace one test for 100 and bomb the next one for 0, you have a 50. F. If you get an A on one and an F on the other, it's a C average.

Numbering hugely expands the definition of failure.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:57 AM
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I never heard of a high school that didn't use numbering. That said, I really only know what one high school did.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:59 AM
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109. One nice thing about oral exams is this: The best questions to see if someone understands material usually involve progressively integrating pieces of the material together. This is really tough with a written exam, because if they just don't get the first step. They are stuck and lose all marks. In an oral exam, you can help them, or even give them a partial result, mark them down for it, and keep going.

Another nice thing is you can ask follow up questions, and quickly see the difference between someone who has no idea what they are trying to do, and someone who has a good idea but is having trouble articulating it.


Posted by: Delinking | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:59 AM
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I assume he got a 0 for not turning in the assignment? It seems really unusual to get a 0 for bombing an exam, as opposed to a 50.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:00 AM
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Anyway, I'm avoid the other thread because of the toaster thing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:01 AM
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"Delinking" is apparently my spel checkers idea for "Delurking". Whups.


Posted by: Delurking | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:01 AM
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So heebert, out of curiosity, why didn't you tell them that you would drop their worst problem? That seems to accomplish something like the same goal but without demanding a priori knowledge of which questions are likely to be hard.

(I have had lots of exams where I could pick which subset of problems to do. People really haven't seen that before?)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:03 AM
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In Heebie Town (and throughout Texas) there are insane local rules that every k-12 teacher must follow, like:

All late work must be accepted for full credit. (This is a real one in this school district.)
All students with very good attendance (some cut-off) are exempt from their final exams.
Etc.

It's designed to help completely doomed students have some path to build themselves back up, successfully, which I do think is really worthwhile. Still, it seems like it should be applied in a case-by-case basis.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:03 AM
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128: I'm sure it won't pop back up.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:04 AM
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All late work must be accepted for full credit.

That's basically training people to be inconsiderate assholes. Which, I guess, much work as a life path in Texas.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:06 AM
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"must work"


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:06 AM
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130: not Heebie, but I like the idea of letting the student pick one to ignore. It relaxes them,because sometimes you just don't see what is being asked, and get hung up on that. Dropping the worst one still means they can waste time on it.


Posted by: Delurking | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:07 AM
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130: The goal of the "omit one" thing, the way I saw it, is to help them feel less stress from the time crunch - if a problem looks overwhelming after a minute or two, you can skip it. If I said "I'll drop your lowest grade" most are still going to feel like they need to budget their time to attempt all five problems.

It's not a huge deal, but my assumption is that with the former, you mentally budget 15 min/problem, and with the latter you budget 10 min/problem, because you feel more obligated to turn in a genuine attempt on all 5 problems.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:08 AM
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All students with very good attendance (some cut-off) are exempt from their final exams.

I don't remember that one. Either after my time or not in my town, I guess.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:08 AM
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Not that I remember the late-work thing either.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:08 AM
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123: don't mind if I do.


Posted by: Delurking | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:11 AM
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Soupy! How goes it?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:23 AM
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When you can skip problems, you of course need to take some time and read them over to decide which ones are worth keeping. I always want to dive in and tackle all of them, out of some character defect, when that's probably counterproductive.

What kinds of biscuits do people like best?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:24 AM
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133: It really does. And it creates monstrous amounts of work at the wrong times for teachers, who know they'll get mountains of half-assed work on the last day of the grading period.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:27 AM
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Yeah, not turning in on time. In his school, a number of teachers imposed a 'not a minute after its due, period' rule. And if you're sick, you have one day to arrange a make up, period. To which a certain percentage of students respond 'yeah, fuck you too.' I'm not saying that blowing off homework, or taking 3 days to arrange a make up test with the teacher, rather than 1, are good ideas, or good training for life. The penalties, though, were ridiculously disproportionate, and, for a subset of (predominantly male ime) students, more alienating that incentivizing.

My son is going to be ok in life: he's a great kid, smart, with good social skills. This approach would absolutely kill kids on the margin, though.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:28 AM
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heebie, have you ever been approached by a student of a different teacher who just wasn't giving them the material like they needed? I have.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:29 AM
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140: good! Spending a weekend with family and not much to do, found myself reading bits of the net I haven't in ages. Amusing to find you lot talking about this stuff...


Posted by: Delurking | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:30 AM
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144: Yes, not infrequently.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:35 AM
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What if the student who came to you was really rude about it -- like popping in during non-office hours, acting as though you owe them a lesson?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:38 AM
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Whether they're being nice or rude, I always encourage them to start with their instructor in office hours. It's good to be able to understand material coming from a variety of presentations, so it benefits them if they can stick it out. Plus I'm already swamped and I don't really feel like taking an extra student on.

If they're not rude, I'll tell them if they're really stuck, to drop by my office hours. But I'm not going to make appointments to meet with them. There's free tutoring every day on campus.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:41 AM
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I would tell them to get the hell out of my office. That's the difference between you and me.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:42 AM
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I would set them on fire.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:46 AM
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I would diagnose them as profoundly depressed over life events with nothing to do with me, assume they were trying to start a fight in order to keep the whole bad feeling thing rolling, and try to ignore them.

Nah, who am I kidding, I'd yell at them boringly or maybe just split.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:47 AM
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I usually say "Calm down, tweaker."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:50 AM
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145: Well, don't be a stranger! Good to see you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:52 AM
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My understanding of office hours is basically that you're there during that time period for whoever wants to come talk to you: current students, former students, non-students. As long as they're nice about it and not interfering with more pressing matters if current students show up.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 9:01 AM
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That's my understanding, too. However, on occasion I'll give a bunch of tests and think "Nobody will come by tomorrow - I can get some grading done!" and then I get pissy when someone drops by to talk or ask something unrelated.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 9:05 AM
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it creates monstrous amounts of work at the wrong times for teachers

This. Not that you can never make exceptions for late work, but this basically creates a situation in which there is no way the teacher can manage or predict how much work s/he will have at any one time.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 9:17 AM
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I was very good about never turning anything in late. Which meant I barely ever turned anything in, but hey. Even less to grade!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 9:20 AM
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108 Also, you might weight harder questions more than easy questions, but that's going to bring down everyone's grade. You want to weight easier questions significantly so that they can build up points.

But that's solved by assigning the letter grade distribution based on how the students are doing. The harder problems can be worth more so the students who do them get more credit, but the letter grade can be chosen so that students who only get through the easier problems get a C, if that's your goal.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 9:22 AM
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See 111: It doesn't mean anything that couldn't also be achieved by curving grades, etc,


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 9:24 AM
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No late work accepted. Ever. Except in the event of illness or other emergency.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 9:32 AM
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Me too. I do drop your lowest two homework grades, though. Actually I usually say "If you can slip it in before the grader picks them up, go for it, but I'm not going to chase down the grader."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 9:34 AM
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Off to ACL. Yesterday's highlight: Rufus Wainwright.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 9:39 AM
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104: née Santa Ana. Thus SNA.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 10:39 AM
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The penalties, though, were ridiculously disproportionate, and, for a subset of (predominantly male ime) students, more alienating that incentivizing.

IIRC my wife allows late work but only within the unit they're working on. So it's possible to get back up to speed on the material from the last couple of weeks but you can't try and dump two months of makeup work on her at the end of the quarter.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 10:42 AM
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No late work accepted. Ever. Except in the event of illness or other emergency.

For K-12, or for college?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 10:47 AM
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College. In lecture classes of 180-400 students, it's impossible to keep track of work that's handed in after the due date. At the same time, it's unfair to offer some students an advantage -- more time to complete assignments -- that isn't available to other students. And finally, I think it's important for students to learn that missing deadlines can have consequences.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 10:51 AM
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Having said that, I try to be reasonable about what is and what isn't an emergency.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 10:52 AM
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160 Even for grad students? The policy in my grad program seemed to be automatic repeated extensions for papers. Pretty much nobody actually handed everything in on time, and around half had papers from the previous semester still hanging over their heads in the following one.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 10:53 AM
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I think my example caused a rule in my old department to stop that kind of delay.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 10:54 AM
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Indirectly, I'm also responsible for the men's room having a working vent fan.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 11:01 AM
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My experience re: late handing in of work varied a fair bit at undergraduate level, but the general rule was that you expect to be fairly heavily penalised without a good excuse [illness, serious life events, etc]. On the other hand, the UK system [at the institutions I studied at] doesn't place as heavy weight on grade averages, so having a couple of shitty or absent marks over a year wouldn't generally be a big deal. Although you'd miss the perks. Glasgow had a system where in first and second year, students who had consistently handed in good work [about 2:1 standard or above] and not fucked about and handed stuff in late, would get exempted from the final year exam.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 11:01 AM
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Indirectly, I'm also responsible for the men's room having a working vent fan.

Shouldn't that be in the next thread?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 11:04 AM
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168: that's a good question. Graduate seminars here are small enough that it's never been an issue. Graduate seminars also very rarely have a formal syllabus; instead they have a reading list. Which is to say, there's no place to put the "no late work will be accepted except in the event of a documented emergency" boilerplate. Having said all of that, I would, if necessary, give a graduate student an incomplete if s/he needed the extra time to get in a paper.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 11:09 AM
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Is the next thread going to be about Cincinnati-style chili?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 11:09 AM
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I have had lots of exams where I could pick which subset of problems to do. People really haven't seen that before?

As per earlier comments, quite common here, too, but it's much more of the form 'answer x from 4x', rather than 'answer x from x+1'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 11:13 AM
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166: At the same time, it's unfair to offer some students an advantage -- more time to complete assignments -- that isn't available to other students.

Fair point, and late work in a course with 180-400 students is clearly a problem. I didn't take many of those courses as an undergrad, and wouldn't have tried to turn in late work in one of them. Grad school is a different matter.

168 was my experience as well in grad school, but you had to have a good reason in asking for the extension. Mine was usually: Professor, I'm writing on blah for the final paper, and in the last week I've realized I'd like to change the direction of the paper somewhat (my research has turned in blah blah direction, and I'm reading so-and-so and so-and-so). I'd really prefer to pursue this and give you the paper in a month or two; I think the quick job I'd otherwise provide for the deadline next week would be, in my own view, B-level work. I'd rather dig in to this more fully: the resultant paper will be more worth both your time and mine.

Of course, then you do have to produce what you just promised.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 11:14 AM
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160, 161, and 168 are also my policy. (Yes they're inconsistent statements, nonetheless they are exactly my policy.)


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 11:24 AM
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Er, sorry 167, not 168.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 11:25 AM
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With nearly 200 students and no TAs, the level of the excuse needs to match the level of inconvenience an extension is going to put me to, and whether I think it's possible to catch up.* There's a difference between needing an extra day because the babysitter canceled and the student couldn't make the test, and coming in after five weeks and saying "I haven't done the homework, did I miss anything?"


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 12:48 PM
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I doubt anyone is denying that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:05 PM
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I mean this in the friendliest way possible: From the point of view of someone paying a teacher's salary, it's not always about the teacher's convenience. Also, don't give so much bullshit homework and count it for so much: that might be a convenient alternative.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:07 PM
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By the time I had failed to turn in a paper in time, I would be happy take an F in the class if I just didn't have to think about writing the paper anymore.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:11 PM
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CC, let's distinguish between K-12 and college.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:12 PM
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For one thing, in college people have fewer classes.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:14 PM
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181: If someone comes in two weeks after I've returned the exam and posted the results, in order to test them, I have to write a new exam. Multiply that by twenty students all who decided to take two weeks off and now I need lots of different versions of the exam. If someone comes in a day late before I've graded them, it's not any trouble at all to give them the exam. And if someone talks to me ahead of time about a conflict, I'm willing to work with them. I'm far more flexible than most of the professors here.

Just because they're paying part of my salary doesn't mean I'm their servant, nor does it mean that they're buying a grade for me to stamp on their work whenever they feel like it.

I don't assign bullshit homework. I assign what's necessary for class to go well, and no more, because I'm not interested in wasting their time. That does mean, however, that my deadlines for weekly homework are going to be firm, because I *am* wasting their time if I'm assigning busy work that can be done all in week 14 of the semester.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:19 PM
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For lower level math classes I try not to assign too much homework, and not have it be worth very much. (E.g. the lowest homework is dropped and all together they only count for 20% of the grade.) I try to make sure there's a homework question which hits every major topic covered in class, so that people at least have a chance to see whether they understood what was going on before the exam. Usually that comes to between 10 and 15 questions a week.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:29 PM
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I'm kind of against homework before college, because people already spend so much time at school. But in college you're only in class 10 hours a week. You have to be able to have students actually reliably get stuff done outside of the less than 3 hours a week they're in your classroom.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:42 PM
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I have a logic class which is organized like a math class. They have two problem sets a week, and each one works out to a little less than 1% of their overall grade. It's absolutely crucial that they do it; logic is kind of seductive in that it seems really easy to grasp but actually doing a proof can be hard without lots and lots of practice.

So, yes, I'm a horrible meanie who has weekly homework required. The weekly deadline is firm absent a good reason, but about 99% of my students manage it every week.

My colleagues don't require homework. Their failure rate for this class is about 40%. Mine is on target to be about 15%, with exams of comparable difficulty.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:45 PM
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Yeah, that's about what I'd have guessed the trade-off would be in Calc 1: do you want to have a few lazy but very bright students get A's instead of B's, or do you want an extra quarter of the class to fail.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:48 PM
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Heebie, have you looked at the NCEA maths marking system? The way it works is that there are typically 8-10 questions on the exam. The first 5 (typically) cover the C level material, then the next 3 the B material, and the final one or two the A material. Generally the rubric will be written so that you need to get 4/5 to get a C, then that plus 2/3 to get a B, then that plus 1/1 to get an A, but you can substitute questions down if you need. Maybe that's a system worth looking at?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:50 PM
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189: Here logic can be taken instead of math, and it's not uncommon to see people take the class multiple times. So in addition to an extra quarter failing it's -- an extra quarter not getting their associate's, or an extra quarter having to find the tuition money to retake the course, and so forth.

Interestingly enough, my bright students for whom logic comes easily have figured out that they can blow through the homework in about twenty minutes with no problems and it's an easy way to ensure their grade is high, so I'm not having a lot of compliance issues.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:54 PM
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Yeah, I haven't had much in the way of compliance issues with homework either. I can certainly think of a few students who did get worse grades due to repeated failures to do homework despite basically knowing the material, but I think it's around 1% of students.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 1:59 PM
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In my math classes in college I adopted the silly habit of never handing in any homework, but then doing all of it as my midterm and final study prep. I passed, but doing the same out of work on time would have given me much better grades.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:02 PM
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Personally I don't really think it is for the lecturer to make decision about people's time management for them by way of the marking schedule. The compulsory assessment set should be that required to show mastery of the course material, and no more.

(Mind you that is just a philosophical point about the proper role of assessment, if setting homework means you're getting a 1/4 to pass that wouldn't otherwise that's pretty cool.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:03 PM
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I saw "choose x out of y" type exams all the time in college, but not in the two math and one* physics courses I took. Or at least I don't remember seeing them in those classes.

With essays it was usually more like 12 potential questions, of which 8 might be in the exam, and then you had to answer 2 or 3 (if there were categories, it might be one from each category or something). So there was no guarantee that any one question would be asked, but you could work out a minimum you would need to prepare.

As for late work, I saw plenty of no extension or no make-up exam policies both as an undergrad and TA, but you could almost always turn in something that wasn't an in-class exam late with a big penalty that increased every day until you got an automatic F, usually four or five days later. So there was a built in date when you knew everything would have to be in.

*Actually, I took another physics course, but it was just a speaker/discussion series.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:04 PM
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Late work policy varied by department where I was, with one course having a 100% assessment that had an insanely rigid deadline (that is to say, it couldn't be altered no matter what, and if work wasn't finished on time you were marked on what was complete a 5pm on the due date.) One department took 1% off per weekday and weekends, and always set things due for a Friday afternoon and didn't check the essay box till Monday morning anyway, and one took 10% off per day, and checked assignment boxes at a minute past deadline.

I think tests were generally fail-if-you-miss absent serious reason.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:11 PM
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OT: this weekend's parenting activities include CrossfitKids, followed by watching baseball and peanut butter/bacon/banana sandwiches. I am pretty much America's greatest Dad.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:12 PM
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194: I don't care how they manage their time, just that the assignment are in weekly. They can do them the day of, a week before, whenever they can squeeze in fifteen minutes. If they're not gaining competence weekly they typically fall so far behind that they fail the exam. So it's paternalistic, but not really from the perspective of "jump through this useless hoop because I say so" but "you're not going to be able to follow week four if you haven't gained competency with week two's material."

For my other classes I have very little in the way of weekly assignments, and a lot more is on the student.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:23 PM
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198: but you are forbidding (or at least penalising) the classic no-work-all-term-then-cram strategy, right?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:34 PM
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181: I mean this is in the friendliest way possible: tell you kid that if he wants to succeed academically in college, he shouldn't be so fucking lazy. Also, I don't assign any bullshit homework. Finally, if you or your kid try to pull that "I'm the customer" bullshit with me, I'll laugh in your face. Never forget that there are plenty of people who want your kid's slot in the UC. Given that, the university will be happy to boot his lazy ass out and let someone hungrier take his place.

Having said all of that, I do think it's insane that my ten-year-old often has more than an hour of homework. But I'm not such an asshole that I blame his teacher. Again, I mean that in the friendliest way possible.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:35 PM
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Really, I'm mostly kidding. Except for this: if students can't make deadlines in college, they should seriously consider doing something else with their time for a few years.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:36 PM
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Yes, on the grounds that setting up people for failure (by implying that the class is passable with cramming) is wrong. I admit it's paternalistic! But the subject is such that it appears crammable when it's really not.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:37 PM
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202: I don't really disapprove, but I do kinda sorta 'cause I have a romantic approval for the cramming approach. Which is obvs nonsense.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:43 PM
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Certainly university level is different.

Of course students shouldn't be lazy, and should do the work. But if you're giving someone a D in the course who is getting As on the exams, you might be over assigning/weighting homework.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:47 PM
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204: that's even true at the collegiate level. In fact, I always take a very hard look at any student who has a huge disparity in performance between discussion section (which tests homework and a student's ability to keep up with the reading consistently), the papers (which tests a student's ability to write), and exams (which tests a students ability to perform in class and under pressure).


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:52 PM
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200.2 -- It is insane. Who is responsible for this insanity? The district, I would suppose. Or, to some extent, the kid, if there are organizational issues? Either way, i feel pretty strongly that the paradigm is seriously wrong, not that I have to care about it any more.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:54 PM
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No, I get it. Part of it is that I don't have a traditional population of undergrads here. Lots of people returning to school after a break, working jobs with kids, twenty years from their last class. Study skills can be kind of rusty in those cases.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:55 PM
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I agree with 204.last. (In the context of high school or intro-level college classes, upper level math/science homework has to be weighted heavier than exams because exams don't give enough time for interesting problems.)

My compromise here is that I'll round up people near a cut-off if their score on the final is high. I wish there were some way to let the final make up for bad earlier performance without it causing people to stay in the class who really should be dropping it. People are really obsessed with "what happens if I ace everything else from here on out" even if it's totally clear that they won't.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:56 PM
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You're not teaching a daily class, and giving bullshit assignments. It's perfectly reasonable to keep an eye on student progress the way you are doing. If younwere already doing a quiz every two weeks that completely covered the material, but nonetheless wanted daily work, I'd find appeals to your convenience as compelling as you find mine to paying your salary.


Posted by: CCarp | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 2:59 PM
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I don't really understand how curving works over a semester. I've always had to include a chart on the syllabus with total number of assigned points, points per assignment/exam, and range of points per letter grade. I also specify the number of points per question ahead of time on both homework and exams. The only way to curve anything (which I do) is on individual assignments, to give more or fewer points of partial credit for imperfect answers. Are you guys allowed to add/change points or weights or whatever, whenever you want?


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 3:23 PM
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We are allowed/encouraged to move the cutoffs down at the end of the semester if very few students got A's or B's using the original cutoffs.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 3:50 PM
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I think it's sort of shitty to assume that students who don't turn in work on time are lazy. I mean, it's probably true in the majority of cases, I guess, but speaking for myself it really had nothing to do with that. But of course I was unlike the problematic students here because I went out of my way to not bother professors (or teachers in high school) -- if I didn't finish something on time to completion, I didn't turn anything in, I never went to office hours, and I avoided asking for special dispensation or help, even when that might have made the difference between suceeding and failing. If I wasn't going to be prepared for class, I didn't go to class.

I learned pretty much everything I was taught in all my classes, but it took me a hell of a long time to figure out that wasn't the relevant metric.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:20 PM
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I remember being stunned in college when I realized how easy it was to hand work in late. Sure, of course I'd like another two weeks to write that paper, why wouldn't I take that option? What a bunch of suckers those profs were.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:23 PM
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Oh, and in response to 212, I was pretty much just lazy, or if you wanted to be REALLY generous, bad at time management.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:25 PM
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Like I said, I buy that as the most common explanation. I think I was waiting for a professor to say "okay, yes, I don't want you to make extra work for me, but I also don't want you to fail the course", but of course I would have had to go talk to them to even potentially hear that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:30 PM
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I'm assuming that "drunk" is for these purposes a subset of lazy.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:31 PM
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Presumably by this time next year I'll be like "jesus fucking christ entitled-ass students will take a mile if you give an inch" but anyhow for now I tell you my feeeeeeeeelings.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:32 PM
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Oh man, when Sifu starts TAing it'll be the best.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:38 PM
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215: yeah, that's the thing: if students come to see me in advance of a deadline, I'm more than willing to listen and I'm usually pretty flexible. It's the students who blow the deadline and then come to me with some version of "yes, I know the syllabus says that no late work will be accepted, but my case is special" that are frustrating. As for someone like you, someone who really is special, I would have failed you. If only you had come to see me, I'm sure we could have worked something out.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:38 PM
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In my very brief experience teaching at the college level, I had one student who (very common on Unfogged but very rare in the rest of the world) was brilliant, interested in the material, and still just refused to do a lot of the work (this was IIRC a class with three papers and an exam, so we're not talking nightly make work homework). He ended up with a B but unlike almost everyone else it was a high-variance B, reflecting flashes of brilliance and total absences of work. I had absolutely no idea what to do with that kid (um, you gotta do the work for me to give you a better grade?) and who knows what became of him, but I'll bet his life is more unhappy than the straightforward plodding mediocrities (in this area) who also got Bs.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:42 PM
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219: awwww. But anyhow I took your advice in 201 eventually and that mostly worked out.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:43 PM
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221: yeah, there are a lot of people in college who would be better served by doing something else with their time for a few years. But then again, these days there are even more people who are in college, should be in college, but can't keep up with the work because they have so many other commitments -- like the full-time job that allows them to pay part of their tuition (they make up the difference with loans) and their room and board.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:46 PM
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220: well, hopefully while failing to do the work he picked up a hobby that turned out to be insanely marketable as a job skill even without a college degree and later used that to talk his way into a graduate school he had no business even being considered for if you went by his transcript.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:50 PM
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My kid was having some pretty serious behavioral problems in preschool, and after many straightforward appeals to morality, orders to comply, attempts at rewards, attempts at punishment, etc. the message that finally seems to have gotten through is "you gotta know the rules to game the system, and if you follow the rules it's the other kid who gets in trouble, not you."

It's entirely possible that this lesson stuck due entirely to inherited temperament, but that really is a valuable lesson.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:50 PM
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223 -- I hope so. Actually given the time and place it's reasonably possible he made it as a programmer.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:53 PM
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Wouldn't it be hilarious if it turned out the kid Halford is talking about actually was Sifu?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:55 PM
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Not that that's actually very likely, given their relative ages and so forth.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:56 PM
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It's not true. Actually, that kid was the TOS.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 5:59 PM
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213, 214: I was Halford, except less drunk. Drunk sometimes, but that wasn't what was keeping me from getting work done.

I was most of my way through my junior year before I figured out that most of my professors were absolutely fine about accepting late work without penalty. This was kind of bad for me -- once I knew it was an option I used it all the time.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:04 PM
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215: I start all of my classes with an explanation of what they need to do if they find they're falling behind and need help, but it boils down to this: I have more options to help you in week 4 than I do in week 11, and I have more options if you let me know about a problem when it surfaces rather than trying to tough it out. I think sometimes students try to be brave when they really need to ask for help.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:11 PM
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225 is my life story.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 6:13 PM
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I'm kind of hoping my son takes next year off, unless some real passion for a subject comes upon him in the next 6 months. He had to go this year, though, because he needed to live out of the house, and there aren't as many opportunities for 17 year olds as for 18 year olds to make a living. I say that he should work at a ski area in a German speaking country, but I'm not particularly picky.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:12 PM
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Since, you know, it's his life and all.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:14 PM
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well, hopefully while failing to do the work he picked up a hobby that turned out to be insanely marketable as a job skill even without a college degree . . .

It's funny the ways in which that does and does not reflect my experience. On one hand I feel very lucky to have stumbled into doing computer programming, and feel like it's both a job that fits my personality well and that it's famously difficult to find work in [mid-sized city] and programming has allowed me to continue living here.

On the other hand I never had the feeling of it just being an easy path. Partially that's my personality, I have a remarkable knack for not finding the path of least resistance. Partially it's the fact that I wasn't a hobbyist programmer. I had spent a bunch of time mucking around with computers, but didn't have much programming experience before getting a job which allowed me to teach myself programming. So it's always felt like work to me. Also, living in [mid-sized city] meant that there just weren't many tech business here making or offering significant money, and there were never any venture-captial funding that I heard of. My first programming job was for a struggling small business making just over $20K/yr.

I've had a lot of practice trying to figure out how to make myself useful as quickly as possible, and I'm glad for that -- it does suit my personality, but it doesn't feel like the same story as having a hobby turn into a lucrative job.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:23 PM
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206

... Who is responsible for this insanity? ...

All the people who think you can teach stupid kids to be smart if you give them enough homework.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 7:42 PM
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I'll second 212, except for the "learned pretty much everything" part. It should also include some mention of the social anxiety death spiral that follows one or two missed classes leading to a missed assignment, and now if you return you'd have to explain yourself, and you don't feel up to it today, so you might as well skip this class, but you promise to go to the next one.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:03 PM
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There are some issues that won't be worked out by doing something else with your time for a few years, and in these cases it might even be best just to muddle through, even if it means more headaches for a few teachers.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:06 PM
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236: well, I probably didn't learn the things covered in classes I didn't show up to, since I never did the reading. But yes on the death spiral.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 8:10 PM
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I think I'd like to stumble into a programming job at this point, but I'm realizing I don't know how to go from semi-hobbyist to anything else. Also, I need to learn a lot more.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-14-12 10:02 PM
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I think I handed in work late maybe once, in the entire 4 years of my undergrad degree. I don't think I ever handed anything in late in graduate school, either, except (ahem) my final thesis resubmission.* Although I was uncomfortably close to deadlines a lot.

As per many conversations past, I am/was [several years now since I last taught] a harsh motherfucker compared to many of the commentariat who teach/have taught. As per Von W in 219, if someone came to me in advance and had a good reason to hand work in late, I was generally pretty easy-going. And I was always understanding about the sorts of time-pressures and financial pressures some students had. Piss-taking lazy fucks, on the other hand ...

As an Oxford tutor without any seniority, I didn't really have the ability to seriously damage someone's academic prospects, but I could still BACAI.

* when I got diagnosed with a thyroid tumour a couple of weeks before it was due in.**
** a special committee had to meet, and gave me a 12 week extension. A whole 12 weeks [on the end of 4 years work]!


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:14 AM
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Lord, what a bunch of slackers you all were. I was a last-minute crammer and especially needed a looming deadline to get papers done, but I turned them in on time except with the 1 or 2 profs who were easygoing about deadlines within a day or two.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 1:20 AM
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ttaM is excepted, obviously. But the rest of you were lazy, drunk, and probably high.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 1:24 AM
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I think daily homework is in every way worse than weekly homework. Weekly homework teaches time management, allows people to balance the importance of various things. On any given day it may very well be the case that students have much more important things to do than homework, but it's unlikely that you're actually too busy to find 2 hours a week more than once or twice a semester.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 2:54 AM
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re: 242

I expect I was lazy, drunk, and the other, quite a bit as an undergraduate. But I still got it together to hand in work on time.

Admittedly, in the later stages of my doctoral study, I was pretty shitty at getting drafts of chapters to my supervisor on time. Not formal deadlines, or anything, but he generally didn't get stuff until the last minute. In my defense, I was working two jobs at the time, and trying to complete my thesis.

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, US students do often seem to receive a level of accommodation that I'd be fucked if I was going to provide. Possibly just as well i) I had no chance of getting a tenure track job in the US, and ii) didn't want to.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 3:00 AM
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244.3. I think US universities are more used to "conventional", i.e.young adult students having to work full time to pay for their course. British universities will need to learn this trick soonish, in the absence of a popular uprising.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 3:47 AM
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re: 245

I didn't have that sort of accommodation in mind. I never had a problem with trying to find ways to work around students' work schedules, need to earn money, and so on. Arranged well in advance and discussed between us so we could work out an arrangement that would suit us both, it was fine. Even conflicting academic work, say. Sometimes a student would come along and explain that handing in a paper was going to be hard in week X, because they had exams that week, or another 4 papers due, or whatever. Or their rent was due and they needed to work extra shifts, or whatever it might be. Reasonable accommodation of genuine needs seems absolutely fine, and you'd have to be a sadist not to try to help.*

But a lot of what's described isn't that sort of thing. It's people failing to hand work in without advance discussion, or just expecting they can catch work up later, or lots of other general failures to treat their tutor/lecturer with a basic level of decency and mutual respect. Obviously young people, being young people, sometimes fail in this -- getting their individual shit together, and/or treating others with the appropriate level of respect -- in which case, my attitude tends to be, 'Sucks to be you.'

*Albeit with caveats for the sorts of final exams where it's just not possible to accommodate lots of people's varying schedules and where it's not unreasonable to expect people to conform to the schedule.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 4:24 AM
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Yeah, agree with that. I thought you were going further.

As a rule of thumb, I'd think that work schedules, academic and otherwise, should be treated with considerable forbearance, but beyond that you should cut the student exactly as much slack as a sensible manager would cut a comparably inexperienced employee in the real world, no more and no less. As in, "You only have two grandmothers son. Three funerals and you're shit out of luck."


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 4:43 AM
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re: 247.last

Yeah, exactly.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 4:45 AM
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I always had a much easier time of it at work, because my employers would have been fairly screwed if I wasn't doing what they hired me to do, so they were understanding.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 4:54 AM
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I don't object to a teacher having hard deadlines, only to the assumption of laziness.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 5:23 AM
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Hell, hard deadlines would have meant fewer breaks ruined by worrying about an overdue 4-6 page paper.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 5:31 AM
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250, 251 are right again. I should have failed. But I prefer to have failed sympathetically.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 5:48 AM
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Where I could, I would usually offer the option of 100% of the grade from the final, which would be comprehensive. Any student that came to me ahead of time (or fairly immediately, if warrented) with a logistical issue would be accommodated. Anyone else was SOL.

On average, marks on finals were typically a little below the term average. Every once in a while someone would do significantly better on the final than on the term work. Almost invariably this would be a good student who had blown the midterm or otherwise underestimated the course. They would also be th ones showing up regularly to office hours with good questions.

I remember one or two top students not bothering with assignments and doing fine. I can't recall anyone who pulled out of a failing grade to a C or D, though.


Posted by: Delurking | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 6:03 AM
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the rest of you were lazy, drunk, and probably high
I turned in my work on time, I'll have you know, missy.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 6:37 AM
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241 is my style. I have a knack for figuring out exactly how much time I need to get something done and procrastinating until exactly that interval before the deadline. Pretty much every paper I turned in was fresh off the printer less than an hour before deadline.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 6:41 AM
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I turned in papers late when professors let me. If they wouldn't, I didn't. I've been what's commonly understood as drunk and lazy during some periods of my life, but you could also think of it as being efficient with my time, and only doing things when they actually need to be done.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 6:56 AM
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Do kids these days still use printers?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 6:57 AM
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Re: 253 last bit. for a solidly failing grade, not borderline.


Posted by: Delurking | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:00 AM
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That I don't know, essear. Back in the day mine was often jammed and I'd have to go to the library and print out my papers the morning they were due. And I was often strolling in late to class with that excuse.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:06 AM
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254. Nobody ever called you lazy.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:06 AM
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160

No late work accepted. Ever. Except in the event of illness or other emergency.

So out of morbid curiosity, what about the student who is a day late because of a sincere (albeit stupid) mistake about the due data?

When I did this (for a take home final no less) I escaped any penalty but it sounds like a good thing I wasn't taking a course from Von Wafer.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:14 AM
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Come on, James. When were you ever sincere?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:19 AM
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I would actually like a list of sincerity events in James' life.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:24 AM
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Humblebrag:

I forgot that my take-home 3rd year logic exam was due until 30 minutes before it was due in [I'd had it for several weeks]. So, rather than plead stupidity and try to do it another time, I did it in 20 minutes, ran the 0.5 mile to the uni and handed it in.

I don't know if I got the highest mark in the year, but it was definitely one of the two or three highest.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:34 AM
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I'm assuming the humble part of that is that it took you 10 minutes to run 0.5 miles.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:39 AM
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http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=humblebrag

Well, the humble part was supposed to be being so disorganised, whatmalike, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:41 AM
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The stereotype I heard was students at British universities were on average supposed to be way lazier (or, at least, spend way less time working) than those in the US. That was the impression of friends I had there (Oxbridge, I guess?). Not really sure why since having a tutor check in on you seemed harder than being graded in a big lecture course.

I don't have any personal experience in the UK but I will say that my US university was WAY more difficult across the board than the major university in CH I spent some time at.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:51 AM
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The stereotype I heard was students at British universities were on average supposed to be way lazier (or, at least, spend way less time working) than those in the US. That was the impression of friends I had there (Oxbridge, I guess?). Not really sure why since having a tutor check in on you seemed harder than being graded in a big lecture course.

I don't have any personal experience in the UK but I will say that my US university was WAY more difficult across the board than the major university in CH I spent some time at.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 7:52 AM
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At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, US students do often seem to receive a level of accommodation that I'd be fucked if I was going to provide. Possibly just as well i) I had no chance of getting a tenure track job in the US, and ii) didn't want to.

Fucked by whom? The college administration? I think usually it's the administration that pushes professors to not fail anybody and not punish anybody for plagiarism and not give anybody a grade that will prevent them from advancing.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:13 AM
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Very late, but filling in corners:

Lots of my math and physics and engineering exams have been 'choose n of m', with m usually between n/2 and 2*n. One of my undergraduate exams had an open research problem on it -- week-long take-home closed-book final, too -- I don't know if we were supposed to recognize the problem, I think they were leaving room for genius. But even the big state universities have offered choice o' trouble, generally with point values made clear and the students aiming for 100 points (but possible curving afterwards).

Weekly or daily (esp. for languages) homework may be pushy or nudge-y, but I do so much better when I make myself work like that at most problems that I find it hard to resent. I still don't know how to also fit in the disruption of staying up all night when the daily nibble looses a torrent of thought.

*As* a TA, I aim for a lot of accommodation if warned beforehand, for all the reasons described above. I have been sorry to discover that students have almost no interest in explanations that turn on being fair to all students, not just the one in front of me.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:15 AM
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re: 267

I don't really know. I've taught a fair number of US students [who were here for a year or more] and I don't remember them being particularly hard working. But I've no experience of being at a US institution.

The Oxford tutorial system can actually be quite difficult. Some students are writing 3 papers a week, every week [although workload varies, it's not always like that]. They are assessed a lot less, though, so I suppose that's a difference. If you find writing hard, and can't defend/describe your views verbally, one-on-one, you could find it very difficult indeed.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:16 AM
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re: 269

'I'd be fucked if ...' is a British idiom. What I mean is, 'there's no way in hell I'd do it', i.e. I'd have every intention of failing a lot of people, and punishing every plagiarist I caught, and generally playing at being a grumpy martinet.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:19 AM
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So out of morbid curiosity, what about the student who is a day late because of a sincere (albeit stupid) mistake about the due data?

I tell them I drop the two lowest homework grades, and not to worry about it, life happens, etc.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:20 AM
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My US/UK impression is that US students believe they will be valued for appearing to be working very hard, and UK students believe they will be valued for appearing to not need to work very hard. This is based on about three UK students in a 1920s-imaginary-Oxbridge-revering tiny US liberal arts college, so.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:35 AM
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There is some truth in that, I think, maybe, yeah. Very few people will ever admit to working really hard. When I was a post-graduate I think everyone worked very hard [no choice, really] but the ones who were most vocal about their Stakhanovite working practices were largely American, yeah.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:42 AM
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I don't think there is a "US student" belief (no idea about UK). Institutional culture varies hugely within the US- at some schools US students believe they will be valued for appearing to work hard, at other schools US students believe they will be valued for appearing to not need to work hard, and at other schools US students believe they will be valued for having bothered to show up to any classes or turn in any assignments at all.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:46 AM
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'choose n of m', with m usually between n/2 and 2*n

Choose four of two?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:49 AM
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Sampling with replacement.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:51 AM
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"The Romney Test".


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 8:55 AM
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In don't know about Brit universities, but my impression of major Polish and German universities was that the undergrads had far less reading and writing to do than at top level US universities. On the other hand, the descriptions I've heard of the workload at Sciences Po and the Polytechnique are insane.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 9:42 AM
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The stereotype I heard was students at British universities were on average supposed to be way lazier (or, at least, spend way less time working) than those in the US. That was the impression of friends I had there (Oxbridge, I guess?). Not really sure why since having a tutor check in on you seemed harder than being graded in a big lecture course.

This was certainly my experience of Oxford and I was supremely lazy/procrastinaty myself. On the other hand, I'm very much in Keir's crammer category, and Oxford English courses are very much set up for thay approach, so I turned out fine. Grades-wise, that is - I kind of squandered a lot of educational opportunity.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 10:08 AM
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280: The impression I get is that there's a lot more reading at Oxbridge than at US universities. When I say I was supremely lazy above I was talking about attending lectures and doing essay-specific work. I read loads and loads. It may be an unfair comparison given that an English course at Oxbridge is three years of that and nothing else, whereas an English course at a US university is being done alongside other courses. But certainly when I look at reading lists for English courses, US ones seem surprisingly thin. Also surprisingly textbook-heavy.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 10:19 AM
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OT: Who puts a sweater on a cocker spaniel when it is dry and 60 degrees?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 11:00 AM
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282 The closest I remember coming to textbooks in history classes, both those I took and the ones I TA'd, were ones that were more general interest survey books than full fledged textbooks, i.e. things like Hobsbawm's 'Age of' series or Davies' God's Playground. French lit classes didn't even have those.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 11:25 AM
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I didn't go to Oxbridge during my study abroad, but I was surprised at how many students just didn't do the work. I understood that they were saving a lot of it for the weirdly long study term (1 month?) before the final exams, but it made for some reading discussions that were truly painful. I had only 2 classes as opposed to my normal 4-5, but there was a lot more reading expected. Fewer actual assignments, though. Overall, I felt like I had loads of spare time - in part, this was down to not having my normal science classes and labs.

I've always been someone who tries really hard in classes, so I don't think it meant anything that I myself was better prepared than most of the other students in my classes, but I had been expecting to really be struggling to keep up with the other students and that was not the case (because I was willing to do all the reading, not because I was smarter or anything, obviously).


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 11:33 AM
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When I was at the (I believe very reputable) University of (Large Swiss City), it felt like the work was incredibly minimal. There were bi-annual exams which were significant and for which one could cram -- I took one basically for fun after a single year, and did fine -- but other than that the work was shockingly easy. I had a full time job which didn't interfere with schoolwork at all; a typical class would have either a fairly easy written exam or a quite easy oral "exam" based on a syllabus of 20 or so books.

As always, things might have been very different in the hard sciences and engineering, and I guess things must have been different if the system was producing competent engineers.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 11:40 AM
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283: Your mom?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 11:46 AM
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Friends who went to U of (LSC) described medicine as involving an absolutely hellish amount of work and math and sciences being probably a bit less intensive than the math and sciences classes at a good US university, but that was balanced by not being able to relax in non-major classes. Law sounded pretty tough as well. EPFL sounded pretty damn rigorous.

*In Switzerland, like in all European countries I know of, medicine and law are undergrad disciplines.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 11:55 AM
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283: What rolls down stairs and under chairs, and over your neighbor's dog?


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:02 PM
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Oh yeah I'd forgotten that I'd known an (undergrad) med student who seemed to work incredibly hard. In retrospect, the continental european law degree seems like the best thing ever -- you just do a few years of difficult but not incredibly taxing work, and then you can go to judge school.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:05 PM
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Oh, yeah, undergrad medicine is definitely extremely hard work in the UK. Law, on the other hand, is a bit of a pisstake.

I understood that they were saving a lot of it for the weirdly long study term (1 month?) before the final exams

It's not weirdly long considering that final exam makes up your entire degree grade.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:05 PM
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Eh. That's true in law school in the U.S. (that one final exam makes up your grade in that class) and we got a couple days off to study. People will take however long they have to study and the curve will be largely the same and the grades will be issued.

I took way too much graduate school, so my patience was low by the end. By the end, I was only willing to study 3 hours for a final, any final. That was it, and asking more of myself only led to procrastination and blaming. Accepting that made my final's period lovely. Study three hours for the final the next day and go outside to play Ultimate. I didn't get great grades, but I had gone to class all along, so I didn't get horrible grades either.

After all that, getting hired ended up being entirely based on my second-to-last grad school. The last grad (combined masters and law degree) has done very little for me.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:39 PM
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||

My close colleague is married to a colleague in another department who has been seriously ill for the last year. (I wrote about their atrocious insurance troubles before.)

Covering his 11:30 class on MWF is super exhausting for me, for a variety of uninteresting reasons, and I was feeling really sorry for myself. Then I found out that she is possibly not going to make it through the week, and now I just feel wretched about everything.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:43 PM
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I'm just venting. In the scheme of things, I'm removed from this tragedy, although pretty close to the surviving spouse.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:44 PM
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US students believe they will be valued for appearing to be working very hard

Like claiming to work 80 to 100 hours per week? I hate that bullshit.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:48 PM
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Oh, heebie, I'm sorry to hear that. I still think it was a bad idea for your chair/dean/someone to not have foreseen this and had a better backup plan than leaning on you.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:49 PM
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291: Not at the uni (St. Andrews, so not in the same class as Oxbridge) I was at, in the discipline I was in (history); if that were the case I'd understand it, but it was instead several papers and a final exam, as well as an evaluation of your participation in class. Even then, I feel like such a long period encourages complete and total slacking off and then a mad rush at the end; why bother with a semester if all you need is a month and an exam?*

*Being a bit facetious, of course, but it really was baffling to me as an American student.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:52 PM
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Is the webpage in 295 so hard to read because Astronomers are used to picking out tiny bits of light from a mass of blackness?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:54 PM
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298: You can read the letter here. I'm too out of the loop to know which department this was.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 12:58 PM
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I always got my work in on time as a high schooler and as an undergrad and I did all the reading when there was reading*, but I was at or below the minimum number of units for my last five semesters of college. A combination of units accrued from high school stuff + doing a few summer session classes got me to graduate in less than 4 years anyway, at which point I quickly realized that I'd been wasting a good opportunity. But I'm repeating myself here.

In high school, when you could still turn in handwritten essays, I'd often finish the essay during the class period when it was due. I'd just tell the teacher: "I need to copy over my essay more neatly since the draft is full of cross-outs." That was usually true of however far I'd gotten with the draft at that point.

*If an assignment was optional, though, I never did it. This hurt me in a math class when it came to the exams but it was great when I could avoid writing a paper in history class. Papers always meant all-nighters, and I hated doing them but couldn't stop, so I actually factored in whether a paper was required into my choices for upper-division courses.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 1:05 PM
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My U.S.-U.K. anecdata is that I spent a semester at the U. of Sussex and was called on to do a shockingly small about of work. Two classes instead of 4-5 as Parenthetical says, but with less reading and only a few short papers. (It was the fall semester and supposedly each semester gets progressively harder? I think?) It was my least stressful college semester by leaps and bounds.

One of the two classes was a small discussion class taught by I/s/t/v/á/n M/é/s/z/á/r/o/s and listening to his gorgeous Hungarian accent was one of the perks. (Plus also a good teacher.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 3:32 PM
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105: What's idolatrous about "National"?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 10:31 PM
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302 was me.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 10-15-12 10:41 PM
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re: 301 and others

I think it varies a lot, I suppose. At Glasgow you'd do 3 courses a year [simultaneously, not consecutively], and each might involve 3 or 4 lectures and one tutorial a week. So you'd normally have somewhere between 12 and 16 hours of class time per week. Each course would usually set a couple of papers per 10 week term, plus a term exam at the end of each term. So that'd be something like 5 or 6 papers a term, plus maybe some additional short pieces of work, and an exam.

As per Ginger Yellow's comments above, at Oxford students can get away a lot more with not attending lectures, and doing little other than writing tutorial essays and reading. However, they do quite a lot of both. So the number of essays might be two or three times what someone at Glasgow would write, and the reading list [from my experience with philosophy] might well be both longer and more advanced.

I don't know if the total number of hours worked would be consistently different, though, across the two institutions. Someone who struggles with reading and writing in bulk would spend more hours per week at Oxford than they would at Glasgow, and someone who found that easy, would spend less, as they'd have less classroom contact hours.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-16-12 12:08 AM
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