JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2010/09/our-pubic-schools.html (32 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1285815744-64  AndrewC at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 03:02:24 +0000

As a college student, I can tell you that open note, open book, multiple choice almost always means an easy exam - I don't even need to study.
On the other hand, open note, open book, essay means a brutal exam and I cannot study enough!

All of these improvements seem geared to make the exams easier to pass while not facilitating knowledge of the material. My favorite approach to make tests easier is to allow students to bring a 3x5 notecard with notes. That way, the students end up reading the books and their notes to try and figure out the "important stuff" and writing that on their notecard. By the time they actually write it down, they've spent enough time looking through the material that they've actually learned it.

jsid-1285825300-920  Sarah at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 05:41:41 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285815744-64

That's why I sometimes allow my students the index card "cheat sheet" -- it's a sneaky way to encourage them to study.

As for easy open-book exams... when I was a physics student, open-book exams (or take-home exams) were death. It meant the questions would be far more difficult than in a straight-up in-class, closed-book exam.

jsid-1285852389-968  Unix-Jedi at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 13:13:10 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285825300-920

Yes, but I bet yours didn't have the suggested "page reference".

Yeah, when I was in college, and even a few HS classes, when the teacher said "It'll be open book" we *groaned*.  I somehow don't think that's the object here.

jsid-1285861989-383  Sarah at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 15:53:18 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285852389-968

No, we didn't get page references. I thought it was a funny comparison, because every physics student I know dreads open-book exams. But I can see this new wave in testing applied to university physics...

Quantum Physics Mid-Term Exam

Question 1: The probability of finding a particle in a region is proportional to ... (see page 99 in the textbook, bottom of the page, in the highlighted box. The answer begins with 'amplitude.' Don't forget to square it.)

Question 2: The time-dependent state of a quantum mechanical system is described by the Schro_____r Eq____n (fill in the blanks).

Question 3: [There is 1 true and 0 false] The Exclusion Principle is a form of discrimination. True/False

End of Exam

jsid-1286000218-206  Greg Hunt at Sat, 02 Oct 2010 06:16:58 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285861989-383

Made me laugh there.

jsid-1286071604-588  Laughingdog at Sun, 03 Oct 2010 02:06:48 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285815744-64

If you're an engineering student, the 3x5 card was because they were testing our ability to use the formulas, not memorize them.

jsid-1285816261-691  bluesun at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 03:11:01 +0000

If they're going to do that, they should just give everyone A's and be done with the farce...

jsid-1285860633-99  Russell at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 15:30:33 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285816261-691

The grades aren't important. The children aren't important. The purpose is to propagate the Department of Education and all that it entails at any cost.

jsid-1285842398-191  markm at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 10:26:38 +0000

Yes, in science and engineering classes, "open book" meant tough questions. You had to

1. Analyze the question and determine what facts and formulas would be applicable. This might include the strength of a particular steel grade and integration formulas.

2. Find them in the book. Since you are under a time limit, that means you'd better be very familiar with the book!

3.  Do the math (or whatever) and answer the question.

However, "open book tests with page references" is a whole different thing. It not only eliminates #1 and #2, but to me it implies enabling the student to basically copy from the book, without demonstrating any understanding.

jsid-1285852304-367  Unix-Jedi at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 13:11:44 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285842398-191

That's Biased!

jsid-1285869077-210  Rick C at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 17:51:17 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285852304-367

Yeah, biased in favor of making sure lots of kids pass regardless of knowledge.

jsid-1285868864-79  Jeroen Wenting at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 17:47:47 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285842398-191

I've had some open book exams when I studied physics, however I never needed the book to pass those open book exams.

I don't know whether I'd have got higher grades had I used the book option of course, but I must have saved quite a bit of time during the exam by studying enough before it that I wouldn't need the book.
And a good thing too, as a few times I'd turn up for an exam only to find I'd gotten the date wrong and had 2 exams mixed up (so had to sit another one I'd thought would be one or two days later).

jsid-1285852770-330  Novak at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 13:19:31 +0000

At my school, the principal issued a directive that homework cannot be graded, because too many students were failing as a result of not doing it.  Teachers like myself (who hold students to higher standards) are often targeted for having higher failure rates, even if failing students score well on state assessments.  (They actually learned the material, they just didn't do any of the work.) 

After forty years, the entitlement mentality has pervaded our children.  That mentality, combined with the bleeding-heart mentality of some teachers and administrators (and state education officials) has created a situation in which students expect to pass, and administrators demand that they pass...regardless of the work they have done (or not done).

jsid-1285855947-287  Mike W. at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 14:12:45 +0000

On the other hand, open note, open book, essay means a brutal exam and I cannot study enough!  

Yup.  I still remember my Con Law final.  It was "open book" so many folks simply didn't prepare.  Quite a few people just got up and walked out after seeing the test.

These recommendations are crazy!  Essay exams mean you should provide an actual essay.  That means full sentences.

jsid-1285869125-390  Jeroen Wenting at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 17:52:05 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285855947-287

essay these days means you have to look up some website where you can download "free term papers" and find one that nominally matches your assignment.

See it on software development forums all the time. Kids asking for them to be handed complete solutions to their graduation projects because they're too lazy to even understand they're too incompetent to comprehend the subject matter.
And then they get abusive when told where to stuff it by professionals who've actually done the work and don't want such lazy kids as future coworkers.

jsid-1285862561-174  Sarah at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 16:03:03 +0000

From my experience as a teacher, I think this craziness is born of two things: 1) To take the pressure off teachers to enforce standards. I have high standards for my students, but it's a constant, unpleasant chore to deal with the complaints, the confusion, the frustration that students feel as they strive to meet them. 2) So we don't feel bad about our students who are struggling. Maybe it's a female thing (and education has become very feminized), but I am always tempted to relieve the suffering of my students by just telling them the answer or making it very easy for them to obtain it. I never give in to that temptation, but I can imagine weak-willed teachers often do. It's part of the modern, feminine paradigm that says suffering = bad, easy = good. They don't understand that struggling and striving is good for students, and in the end all that work is what gives them a sense of accomplishment.

jsid-1285863397-934  Russell at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 16:16:53 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285862561-174

Sheesh, Stickwick, don't you know school is there to bolster the student's self esteem!? This, this, teaching stuff has got to go!

jsid-1285863651-442  Ken at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 16:20:51 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285862561-174

They don't understand that struggling and striving is good for students, and in the end all that work is what gives them a sense of accomplishment.

A professor with whom I have interviewed for a position said, "We learn when we are in pain."

jsid-1285867095-626  Sarah at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 17:18:15 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285863651-442

Russ, teachers and admins do think it's their mandate to bolster self-esteem instead of teaching stuff, and like numbskulls they go about it directly. You're all special! You're all gifted and wonderful! Kids know this is B.S. Ironically, what teachers and admins don't understand is that making students work hard to learn stuff -- which means they'll feel like crap for a while -- is what builds their self-esteem.

I had a student last semester who was getting D's and F's in a challenging physics class, mostly because he wasn't putting any effort in. I could tell he was a weaker student than the others, but instead of babying him I laid it on the line: either bring up the grades or you don't belong in the physics program. It got him motivated -- he surprised the heck out of me when he got a 91% on the final exam. It taught me that people will rise or sink to whatever expectations you have of them.

Ken, absolutely. I tell my students that the "learning is fun" mantra is B.S. They like hearing that, because it conforms to their reality. Learning sucks. Knowing stuff, and putting it to use, is fun.

jsid-1285869228-85  Jeroen Wenting at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 17:53:48 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285867095-626

Even worse, "you're all entitled to good grades, high pay jobs, long vacations, and all that without ever having to put in any actual work".

jsid-1285900485-495  DJ at Fri, 01 Oct 2010 02:34:45 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285867095-626

"Knowing stuff, and putting it to use, is fun."

Yup, it is, and it's called "engineering".

"Learning sucks."

No, learning is fun. That's how you come to know stuff.

jsid-1285903402-440  Sarah at Fri, 01 Oct 2010 03:23:22 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285900485-495

DJ, I envy you actually enjoying the process of learning; I always found it painful.

jsid-1285944706-475  DJ at Fri, 01 Oct 2010 14:51:48 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285903402-440

"DJ, I envy you actually enjoying the process of learning; I always found it painful."

I've always found it easy; perhaps that's why it's fun.

jsid-1285953301-922  Russell at Fri, 01 Oct 2010 17:15:05 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285944706-475

Skool larnin' is painful.

Learning on my own has been a joy!

jsid-1286151094-497  khbaker at Mon, 04 Oct 2010 00:11:34 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285903402-440

I always found it painful.

Says the woman with a Ph.D. 

Funny. You've never struck me as a masochist.

jsid-1285880328-883  Mark Horning at Thu, 30 Sep 2010 20:58:49 +0000


Take Home, Timed, Closed Book exam in Quantum Mechanics.  The teacher then changed it to "open book", and said, "if you don't know it by now the book won't help anyway."

4 hours timed on the honor system.  Only one person actually finished the exam.  The guy who finished it was a math/physics double major and every one of us believed that he had finished in the alloted time.

Just remember in Quantum mechanics everything is quantised, even beer.  Thus you need 2 beers for a take home exam.

1 is not enough and after 3 you stop caring, so 2 beers are required for QM.  Obviously the size of the beer is set by the boundary conditions... 

jsid-1285897616-4  Moshe Ben-David at Fri, 01 Oct 2010 01:46:56 +0000

Hey Sarah,

I like this line so much, I'm stealing it and using it at every opportunity.

****    Learning sucks. Knowing stuff, and putting it to use, is fun.  ****

Thank you very much!

jsid-1285903425-298  Sarah at Fri, 01 Oct 2010 03:23:45 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285897616-4

You're welcome!

jsid-1285932060-360  GrumpyOldFart at Fri, 01 Oct 2010 11:21:00 +0000

I've always thought of learning as sort of like an Easter egg hunt, which I suppose is a big part of why I've nearly always enjoyed it.

But in fairness, I have to admit that the vicious bastard who hides the eggs can only get so creative before his work begins to lose some of its charm.

jsid-1285973397-730  Toastrider at Fri, 01 Oct 2010 22:49:57 +0000

DJ: Keep in mind that what transpires in schools isn't really 'learning' per se.

I've learned a startling amount while working at my new job (mechanical testing for a major electrical hardware manufacturer and distributor), and I've enjoyed it. But the idea of stepping back into a classroom fills me with shudders.

jsid-1285984885-928  DJ at Sat, 02 Oct 2010 02:01:26 +0000 in reply to jsid-1285973397-730

"DJ: Keep in mind that what transpires in schools isn't really 'learning' per se."

I've said the same thing for decades.

One of the engineers I mentored (who is BRILLIANT, by the way) spent eleven years in night school earning his degree, all while getting married, raising three children, building two houses, and working his full time job.  As he was nearing the finish line one day, he asked me, "So, when do they teach all that neat stuff you know?" (That's a paraphrase, but that's the essence of it.) I told him that they don't; you have to teach yourself, and you never stop learning. He never stops.

For example, I spent one fourth of my career supporting lawyers about litigation in federal court over patent issues.  I was a fact witness, an expert witness, and a federal rule 30(b)(6) (i.e. document production) witness, and I wrote, filed, and prosecuted patent applications.  I learned all of this on the job by doing it; NONE of it was ever touched in a classroom.

Life is like that.  Those who don't learn have no advantage over those who can't.

jsid-1285979367-959  GrumpyOldFart at Sat, 02 Oct 2010 00:29:28 +0000

There is that. Learning is fun. Trying to stay awake and keep your brain turned on while being lectured sucks canal water.

And like any form of exploration, how much fun it is relates directly to how well you can see where you're going, as opposed to being simply lost.

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