Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Frustration Quiz

I don't teach much grammar type stuff in my writing courses because it's been shown not to actually contribute to helping students write better. But I do, when a group of students shows a pattern of a specific grammar or punctuation problem, do a short session on how to do that grammar or punctuation correctly. And so it was yesterday.

I made up a handout with an explanation and examples. We went over stuff, and then students wrote some sentences of their own. We read some of those aloud and talked about them.

Today, I gave an open notes quiz on the grammar and punctuation things, thinking that it would be a tiny boost for some students. The quiz asked them to write a couple sentences using the grammar/punctuation things. It was open notes.

About half the students did fine. One wrote down the sentence she'd written as her example yesterday (and read aloud), because it's an open note quiz and it was right there, and she knew it was right.

But about half the students just bombed.

I know this is a grammar thing that students didn't know before the class (because it's not generally taught in high school). So, the ones who did well learned (or copied from their notes from) yesterday. And the ones who didn't do well?

1) I wasted our time yesterday and didn't do a good job.
2) Couldn't copy from the examples on the handout, even.
3) ??

You know, when people worry about students being incredibly creative in their cheating attempts, I wonder who those students are. Because on an OPEN NOTE quiz where students could use what they'd written yesterday or the very handout, half my students bombed. They couldn't manage to use the notes or handouts they were allowed, nay, encouraged to use to do well on the quiz. How would they manage to write the answers on the inside of their ball caps or in super secret text messages?

Sometimes, my mind boggles.


  1. PhilosopherP9:02 AM

    I use the exact problems from my logic textbook on every quiz and exam. I've had a logic solution written ON THE BOARD (left accidentally after a warm up problem) that was on the quiz they took that day... and students have still missed them.

  2. I think some students are just hiring people to write their papers -- that's how uncreative they are.

  3. I use fill-in-the-blank questions for some of my larger survey courses. The terms are key items from our class meetings. The sentences they fit into are taken directly from the textbook's first mention of the term.

    Still, I will have students who can't get 1/5 or 1/10 on this. Not because I don't tell them all of the above, but because they can't a) believe it's that simple or b) be arsed to do the prep.

  4. I'm starting to think it's a question of carryover (or lack thereof)... in that they don't think in terms of learning a skill that will be useful again (even the next day). They think of assignments and activities as discrete things; once I've jumped through this hoop, I forget it and move on. I'm writing more and more assignments in sequence, where assignment 1 has them do A, assignment 2 has them do A+B, assignment 3 has them do A+B+C, and so on... and I tell them that they will lose additional points if they repeat a mistake on any assignment that I corrected on a previous one. They boggle at the idea that these things are supposed to build on each other.

  5. Anonymous4:16 PM

    They didn't take notes in the first place, I'd bet.