Saturday, December 01, 2012

Plus or minus

Rather missing the point 

One of my favorite negative reviews on is the following:
I don't understand why people say he is a good instructor. Many students in his class struggle to get a good grade. yes he is clear but his tests are extremely difficult. And expect a ton of repetitive homework assignments.
Let's deconstruct my student's complaint piece by piece:
Many students in his class struggle to get a good grade.
Yes? You mean they don't get good grades automatically? The student in question was enrolled in a calculus class. Such classes are notorious for easy grades, right? Yeah, right. More to the point: In a typical college class you can expect a distribution of grades, most of which are C's. Not what I would call “a good grade.” Good grades are A's and B's, earned only by those students who put in the effort.
[E]xpect a ton of repetitive homework assignments.
I checked. The syllabus contained homework assignments for each section with, typically, 12 to 20 problems. There were 33 sections that we covered, so students were expected to solve approximately 500 problems over the course of a 16-week semester, or a little over 30 exercises per week. (My bleeding heart weeps for them.)

Funny thing: There is a remarkably high correlation between doing the homework and getting one of those good grades. There were thirty students in the class. I note that only one student in the top half of homework performance was not earning an A or a B (and that one student was pulling a solid C). Of the fifteen students in the bottom half of homework performance, only four had “good” grades (three B's and one A [there's one in every crowd]). Conclusion: Do the work, get a good grade.
[H]is tests are extremely difficult.
Evidently not the case for those who work at it by doing the “repetitive” assignments. (Average scores were actually in the low eighties.)
yes he is clear
Thank you very much. Clarity is something I strive for and I am pleased that you noticed.
I don't understand why people say he is a good instructor.
Indeed you don't.


Karen said...

In the fairly recent past I took a class from an instructor that I had mixed feelings about. He was a notoriously bad listener, and kept answering the question he _thought_ you were asking rather than hearing you out. He also went through powerpoint slides fast enough that note-taking was a challenge. His labs and out-of-class assignments were incredibly challenging, and his tests were amazingly difficult (and relentlessly comprehensive). I learned so much in that class that I took another one from him -- and learned a ton in that class, too. Is he a good teacher? I'm still ambivalent about that. But I'd jump to take another class from him.

Karen Locke said...

Of course I have to admit, Zeno, that you were one of the best instructors I ever had, back when you were a grad student and I was an undergrad. You were the only lower-division mathematics teacher from whom I could learn just about everything taught, without scurrying off to physics or engineering professors to help me make sense of it. (Office hours: I used 'em!) When I took my graduate degree recently, I compared my VERY GOOD/EXCELLENT instructors to you, and did not find you wanting.

To be honest, the only complaint I ever had was that you chose your classes to be at ungodly hours of the morning, relative to when the noise in the dorms quieted enough to let someone sleep.

evlunclbud said...

That is why I don't look at RateMyProfessors. I don't really want to know what they think. A friend looked me up and told me the only real negative he saw was that my "jokes were lame." Not a surprise, so I've become a little more Dangerfieldian in my humor.