Thursday, February 19, 2009


This article about student expectations in the NYT combined with my observations of students taking tests today spur me to mention the following:

  • Students now expect tests to be open-book/open-note. They seem to think that's the default mode, so that on the day of the test they are surprised that they can't use their notes. When did the default mode change? Should I start calling my tests "closed notes" to prevent this?
  • I always tell my students how many questions and what type of questions (multiple choice, problems, essay, etc...) will be on each test. I announce it the week before the test, immediately before handing out the test, and keep the format the same throughout the semester. That withstanding, students still fail to complete the last questions if they are printed on the back side of the last page. I find this odd. Not only have they not completed the stated number of questions, but why NOT flip the page when all of the other pages have been double-sided? Shouldn't they look on the back just to make sure? I now try to remember to announce that questions are printed on the back (when they are), but I forgot in one of my sections today and had to send about 30% of the students back to their desks to finish the test.
  • Because of the aforementioned difficulties on the last pages of tests, I have the students turn in the tests face-down. In a couple of cases, when I pointed out that the page was blank, the students told me that they didn't answer the questions because they missed the appropriate days of class. In fact one student, in an almost accusatory tone, responded, "You know I wasn't in class that day." And that excuses the students from learning the material how? I even post my course notes on the website!

Sometimes I feel like I work harder on these tests than they do!


PHIL. said...

I don't know when open book/open notes became common. Certainly not when I was in school the firt time around. There does seem to be a lot more push back on my professors to do that from the "kids" (the ones who came into my school straight out of college as opposed to those of us with "real life" experience.) They rarely get anywhere, since the school is preparing us for a licensing exam which can be brutal and is certainly not open notes.

I think we had one open book exam, but the book was basically a phone book in size and density and if you didn't at least know where everything is, you weren't going to make it through...

Judy said...

We have a bit of a battle with our freshmen because the middle school gives open note exams in science. To me that is nuts! I give them the equations, but some of the material, they just have to learn and KNOW.

Seems it's not just at this level. Sadly, this does not prepare them for any of the standardized tests either, as none of them are open note. If open note is the default, the kids are being done a disservice.

Hang in there, test days are always tougher than I think they should be.

essentialsaltes said...

I am surprised by the amount of hand-holding that Becca's students get. They're HS freshmen, but still it seems ridiculous that they get a 'study guide' that is practically a rough draft of the test.

Virtualbri said...

People are getting stupider and lazier every day.

And they just roll that feeling of entitlement and laziness from your classes to the job market, where I see people right out of college that don't understand what a good job they have here, and how they ask for all kinds of things the should be doing for themselves, or should be fired for not doing.

The NYT article is just one of many like it, and it makes me nuts reading a post like what you have to endure.

Because I'll get it in the next rounds of job applicants.

Maybe a good long depression will make society a little more responsible for themselves again.

Dr. Lisa said...

I love my students, I do. I don't blame them as individuals for a lot of the behaviors mentioned. Not obtaining notes for days you've missed is unacceptable, but is it their fault that previous instructors have groomed to expect to use notes on exams or my fault that I was unaware of the trend? What if other instructors always designed their exams so that nothing ever appeared on the back page, and it's my assessment design that sucks?

I set reasonable expectations, I think, but my mellow classroom demeanor may mislead them. Not that I give hard exams (seriously!), but I think I come across as being "nice." Also, I'm female, and students expect female instructors to give easier exams.

If their sense of entitlement is baffling, we only have ourselves as a society to blame. Sad, but true.

Scott Dowell said...

It could be worse. I teach about 30 applications titles in my training at the law firm. I've been doing training so long and have enough certifications and experience that I can help the staff obtain their vendor certification in several of these applications (think Microsoft and other companies).

What I've been hearing lately is... "Is that specifically on the exam? If not then let's skip it". I've tried to explain that if you learn how the application functions, the certification is easier to obtain. I can't break them of the old trainers habit of "this is what you need to know pass the exam".

So the laziness is everywhere when it comes to exams. But the worst was when I overheard someone ask if they thought I would take the exam for them. Talk about stupid and lazy.

Dr. Lisa said...

The "Is that on the exam?" is universal. Hurts my students, too, because they seem to think that if I'm answering a student's question, they don't need to know it. I've tried to be more clear over the years, but if I spend a long time answering a student's question, it's because I think it's RELEVANT!

But you definitely have me beat with the exam-taking comment! ;)