Monday, June 23, 2008


What do you do with students who are determined to self-sabotage? I spent a depressing weekend entering test and homework scores into the computer, and seeing what popped out. In one Friday morning class, twenty-one out of thirty students will fail if I stick to the guidelines I gave them. There are two reasons for their failing: the low test scores on the braindead tests I give at the beginning of each class (which were supposed to give them an easy thirty percent of their grade in exchange for turning up on time, and in most other classes that's how they work), and the homework scores. Fewer than half of the students handed in any homework at all, despite being reminded weekly for the past five weeks.

If I drop the worst scores from the tests, then the nine good students score almost 100% and the number of failing students drops to fifteen.

What on earth is going on with this lot? Every week, when I tell them about the test the following week, I tell them what the questions will be, AND the answers, and they all write them down. In the last few weeks I have been begging them to remember that there will be a test, and to revise for at least five minutes before class because they have been doing so badly they might fail. I have asked if the questions are too difficult, and they laugh and say that they are not. But the next week, at test time, at least half the class panics. "TEST?" they gasp, and look shocked and betrayed. Why am I springing surprise tests on them?

How can they forget something that happens every week?

Many of the tests are error correction questions that we study the week before, in class. I collect common mistakes and write them on the board, and the students correct them, as a class. They get them right at that time, and don't have any difficulty seeing what is wrong with, say, She name is Susan., and correcting it. They write it down, sneering at the silly mistake. The next week, in the test, they correct it to She's name is Susan, or something equally ludicrous.


I wonder if I'll get in trouble if I fail half a class?


tamakikat said...

Tell me about it.
I say if you spell out what to do and give the students time to do the work then the onus is on them.
However you may have to rethink the gameplan for next round.
Kia kaha!

Contamination said...

Fail them! All 21 of them.

If you made it clear enough at the beginning and they haven't done the work, fail them. It's clear you made it quite easy to pass.

Don't worry, someone else in the institution will rubber stamp their degree and send them off to be incompetent while working for a small Japanese company, but just so long as you can sleep soundly knowing you did your bit.

Hebron said...

Japanese people reset themselves every week! One button press and Bam! their brain is fresh for new information!

This explains why all the Japanese people I've met here seem so happy yet frazzled at the same time. They can actually remember stuff, but their brain is overloaded with information :P

And if I were you, I'd make em panic, just for kicks.
"Yes, I've decided that since your grades are so terrible, the last test is going to count for 100% of your grade."
Watch em panic *that* week XD