Upper level bombing. What do I change (if anything).

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alchemist:
This semester, I inherited an upper-level  organic course at the last minute.  Something I had not taught, and was very nervous about teaching (I have posted my previous issues in the fora before).  I actually, like to think I've been doing pretty well with a lot of late nights.

First exam was decent, although not written great, but the students seem to understand the topic.

Second exam was worse, and although the grades came out ok, there were some warning signs much of the basic material was completed by guesswork, and not knowledge.

I'm grading exam 3 now and it's atrocious.   Students seem to have no clue what the basic materials we've used and covered over and over again.  Hard exam problem (1) requires the exact same procedure as practice problem (1) which we covered in class 24hours earlier. Not one correct answer.

I talked to a pair of students who said they are putting in major hours, but they close the book and the material is gone.  Other than "you need to do more problems"  I'm not sure what advice to give them.  I understand missing the upper level problems, but if you don't have the basic reagents/outcomes memorized, how can you accomplish anything?

I've got 4 weeks, how do I improve their quality of work?

field_mouse:
Putting in a lot of hours is not the same as studying effectively.  If there is material that they have to memorize, they have to quiz themselves over it, not just read it over a few times.

Have your class make flash cards for the things they have to memorize.  Or give them a list formatted in such a way that they can fold the page over.  I give my students readings they can print out and fold up from the bottom, so that they can quiz themselves over each paragraph.

Too many students try to study by reading the book over and over, rather than active learning.  As a recent Chronicle article put it, that way they feel familiar with the material -- but as you are finding, they don't actually know it.

brixton:
Organic chem?  Answer is always:  "You need to do more problems."  I'm a lit person, but I would tell my advisees/mentees enrolled in  organic it isn't enough to do and understand the problem sets with the book open.  You need to do it with it closed, and then again with it upside down, and then again standing on your head.

new_bus_prof:
Quote from: alchemist on March 27, 2013, 10:38:05 AM

Hard exam problem (1) requires the exact same procedure as practice problem (1) which we covered in class 24hours earlier. Not one correct answer. I've got 4 weeks, how do I improve their quality of work?

If a whole class fails the problem, I usually reassign these problems as a take home quiz, in class quiz, or additional homework. I then add back the points to the exam. You have to decide whether this is in addition to whatever else students were also required to be doing or if you are going to slow down and re-teach some material and eliminate something.

Are you having students go to the board and demonstrate their understanding? Having students complete problems handed out in-class as quizzes? Assigning homework problems students are getting right and then failing on the exam? Or, doing something in class requiring students to demonstrate their understanding?

lucy_:
Quote from: alchemist on March 27, 2013, 10:38:05 AM


I talked to a pair of students who said they are putting in major hours, but they close the book and the material is gone.  Other than "you need to do more problems"  I'm not sure what advice to give them.  I understand missing the upper level problems, but if you don't have the basic reagents/outcomes memorized, how can you accomplish anything?



If I were in your shoes, I'd try to veer away from "memorizing" and focus on teaching them the principles, the "chemical intuition" as my organic colleagues refer to it. If they understand the how and why, rather than trying to memorize, they will retain the information much better, not just for this class, but after they leave this class as well.

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