Some thoughts on how to improve your class ( and exam) performance
  • prepare very well on a consistent basis. 
  •  You can easily make use of 60-90 minutes between each class.
  •  TIME equals POINTS and I believe that is true. 
  • The best thing you can do to do better in this class is put in more time. "How can I make use of more time?" is never a bad question to ask yourself. Too many students ask “how quickly can I get finished?”
  • Then, you come to class and I throw questions at you – often different than the ones I have given you to prepare. What I am trying to do is teach you how to take what you’ve prepared and use it (on the spot) to figure out something else.
  • Learn how to answer questions that you haven’t seen before by a quick analysis and a genuine understanding of what’s gone before.
  • Then, after class, spend 30-40 minutes assimilating what you’ve learned so that you can use it in answering future questions.
  • I think all of that is a skill/talent worth developing. That’s something you can use in the real world regardless of your major.
  • The four keys to this process as I see it: (1) preparation and (2) “figure it out” and (3) assimilate for future use and (4) consistency.

How do some students seem to view this class?

  • These students believe that preparation is a waste of time because the teacher (me) is going to tell them what they need to know in class. Their preparation is, at best, a half-hearted affair.
  • In class, they pray they won’t get called on. They write down what anyone and everyone says with the assumption that they’ll memorize it all the night before the test. All real learning is deferred and replaced by a cram system.
  • The problem is that when they get to the test and I throw a bizarre question at them, it doesn’t match up with the memorized material in their head and they haven’t determined how to analyze and figure out a reasonable answer.

And, remember, a good grade on the first test is nice but it isn’t a guarantee of great things to come. And, a bad grade on the first test is not the end of the world. It’s the first test, a way to gauge how you are doing in this. . . class.

Teaching Blog, September 23, 2012