Cramming for Exams Not Working Hard
Joining the College grading expectations debate a little late, Alan Jacobs makes a point most of us glossed over entirely: even if we decide that it matters how hard the students worked matters, how would we measure that?
Monitoring students on webcams to see how much time they spend writing, or with their noses in books? Even that wouldn’t let me know how much of the time they’re really concentrating and how much daydreaming. Have then hooked up, then, to constant brain-scanning devices, so that I can see what parts of their brain are active, and how often?
More interesting, though, is the bottom line:
That would help a lot, but short of that, I think the only option — and as far as I can tell this is the one that many students want — is for the students themselves to decide how hard they worked. But if we’re supposed to give them grades based on how hard they worked, and they’re the ones who determine how hard they worked, then they’re basically grading themselves. Now that would be a dream come true for me as well as for them, but it’s not really a workable solution. Especially since most students I know have one real criterion for determining how hard they work on an assignment: how late they stay up the night before the assignment is due.
Yes, there are students in every class — especially survey courses taken by non-majors — without the aptitude to master the material. There are far more students, though, who simply have no concept of what it means to do the required work.
It’s also true, admittedly, that the converse is true: Many students who get good grades don’t work all that hard, either. Rather, they have a natural aptitude for the material and/or test taking. Or they can pull an all nighter and crank out a paper that’s better than most of their peers turn in.
Photo by Flickr user foundphotosli under Creative Commons license.