Sometimes the exam is too hard

May 10, 2004

Sometimes the kids do badly because they don't study.

Sometimes the kids do badly because the exam was comprehensive and they tried to cram for it.

Sometimes the kids do badly because they are stupid.

Sometimes the kids to badly because the teacher did not teach well.

...

Sometimes the exam is too hard.

At least one kid nailed every ID and every essay question I gave them, but most of them did very poorly indeed and no one had a sustained excellent exam. I had lots of flunked exams, and no honest As. So, I made some notes about how to teach this material differently next semester, and then I curved the final four tenths of a GPA or about one notch (i.e. B exam is effectively a B+.)

Part of what I did wrong was to give them a question that I should have focused more on during the semester but that was better suited to be a study point than an actual exam question.

How did the long decline of the Ottoman Empire shape European History from 1600 to the present? Is the decline of the Ottomans the most important narrative for the modern world, or is the modern world more indebted to other movements, ideas, or events?
Instead I should have given them one of the things from the study sheet that more closely tracked what we did over the semester, perhaps
Starting with an agricultural society and working up through the First Industrial Revolution (1750-1850, centering in 1800), the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1930, centering in 1900), and the Third Industrial Revolution (1970s to the future, centering now), discuss the roles of men, women and children in the work place. What were their responsibilities? How did gender roles change with the start of each new industrial revolution? What is the relationship between job requirements and gender roles?
I asked that one on the makeup exam, and those kids did OK with it. It is a big tedious fill-in-the-blanks question, but from the answer to such a question you can get a feel for how much history did the kids pick up by the end of the semester.

So we learn, every time we learn. Considering that this was the first time I have taught Western Civ from my own syllabus, it will do. I give myself a C+ (passing but needs a lot of work) for my first section, B+ for the second, for the reasons I indicated in an earlier post.

And now I get to turn in grades and focus on writing for the next couple of months. It will be good to write.

Posted by Red Ted at May 10, 2004 11:29 AM | TrackBack