post midterm whining

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new one:
I've just given out the results of the first midterm in my class, and all of a sudden the class atmosphere turned from upbeat to resentful. Many were disappointed in how they did on the exam (including me), so now everything is met with "Is this going to be on the next exam?" and "Do we have know this?" and "Why do we need this?"

Any suggestions on how to deal with this in class?

Whining Student:

I'm trying to write a midterm take home test right now....

"What have you learned so far this semester?"

In less than 300 words.  A bit broad and uninspiring, don't you think?

Yes your topic is broad.  What your instructor may want is for you to give  examples and put them into context.  Integrate and apply your knowledge.  Ask her/him what s/he wants.

New one - I don't know that there's a cure for this.  Empathize and tell them that you are disappointed as well with the results, but you know that college is tough and they can succeed if they put the effort into it.

This has happened to me, but only in my largest, intro. class. In smaller classes, where I have a closer relationship to students (and I am not some distant instructor), I don't have this problem.

So, I think that part of this sudden switch in atmosphere can be related to the size of the class and the distance students perceive between themselves and the professor. The larger the class, the more anonymity...students feel they can just show up, never say anything, never do anything (i.e. like reading) because they know the class is too large for them to ever be called on, and still expect to do well in the course. If they don't, they are freer to blame their performance on the professor, because they don't know the professor on any level (and they think the professor does not know them) and have nothing invested in the class.

It may be too late to do this now new one, but I have begun -- at the beginning of the semester in my larger classes -- to be very clear and exacting about what will be on the tests (i.e. the structure of the tests) from day one. And, I emphasize how they will be tested, and on what, over and over again especially as the exam approaches.  I post my lecture notes on-line so that they cannot complain that I wasn't clear about what they were going to be tested on or what was important in the readings.

I am not saying that professors aren't sometimes responsible for writing bad test questions whining student. If I do that, if I look at a test and the whole class missed a question for example, I take that as a sign that I wrote the question in a way that was not clear. When I talk to students about the exam, I tell them that this was the case and that I did not take off for that question. That way, students see that you are capable of realizing when you have made a mistake, have not been clear, etc. and will not penalize them for that.

CC adjunct:
I arrange my test schedule so that I give 4 smaller exams and a final exam, instead of one midterm and one final exam.  It helps students to understand how I write exams, and it decreases the animosity for a single test grade.  The exams are cumulative, and I find that students remember the material much better when they have been learning it in smaller increments.  They are normally a little surprised at how well they do (I was too, the first semester).  It also made grading a little easier on me, since I end up spreading the grading out over the semester instead of doing it all at once.  The students tend to prefer this format, since it helps them manage their time more effectively, and they have a good idea of how they are doing in the course.


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