Thanks for all of your insightful responses to my earlier post “Tests and Grades and Assignments…”
I give my 101 tests online because there are 68 students enrolled and I feel 3 tests is the best format, but can’t possibly manage all that grading. I accept that this means that some of them are going to be taking it together, as well as that it’s open book. I design the test with that in mind, so that the questions are a bit less of the type you can easily look up, but rather the type you need to know something to solve or figure out. I make it available only for about 36 hours, and it’s timed. Beyond that, well… quite frankly, I’m not paid enough to put more extensive measures in place. I also am open about all of this. I know that some teachers give their students exams online and tell them not to work together or use their texts but I feel that ultimately, since this can’t be enforced, you’re kind of setting yourself up, and the students are sort of laughing all the way to their grade.
An update on the test I gave in my 300-level class though: The average was a 62. This is too low – I am terribly disappointed. I don’t want to commit the cardinal teacher sin: blame the students. Rather, I’d like to figure out why this has happened – I know that the test was fair in that it covered material I have taught and made available to them. I went over it in class. In one section covering material from the second unit I covered, students were responding with vocabulary and terms from a completely different unit. This was a red flag, I explained to them, that they seem to have missed an entire unit’s worth of material that was taught, assigned as reading, and quizzed. Surely that can’t be on me.
I said that I was disappointed and confused about the grades, because I know that the classes and textbook both covered everything I asked, and for each section of the test, reminded them of the exercises we did in class or for homework that prepared them for it. I told them that if there’s something else I can do to make the material more clear, to please speak up. I said that I will not be lowering my expectations, but that I can help them more, or in different ways. They didn’t say much, other than that one student asked if I could put page numbers on my slides/handouts to refer them to the relevant pages in the text (secretly I was thinking, “you have some nerve, girl” but hey, I asked). I reminded them of my office hour (which no one has ever come to) and the study group that an ambitious student set up (underattended), the textbook readings (7-10 pages per class meeting), and all the notes I put online.
A student who has sort of become my little mentee (more on this later) is in this class. Later in my office, she says that she thinks that because our class is stress-free and relaxed and I am very approachable, students assume my tests will be easy and they’re surprised when they’re not.
Note: I’m never lax on deadlines, save for true emergencies like deaths in the family, etc.
Is being approachable and having a classroom that isn’t always on edge actually a disservice?
I’m meeting tomorrow with a member of the full-time faculty to see what he thinks. He’s always been helpful and supportive and I value his opinion and respect his teaching style. I might be overthinking this, but I don’t want it to happen again. (And I guess, if I’m being honest, I want to hear that I’m doing this right.)