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I have now graded one set of exams (two more to go) and all the papers and extra credit submissions and quizzes and such extras.  So I can see the other side of the hill.  It doesn't look too pretty but whatever -- the end of term is coming.  Grades are due on the 20th of December.  It is coming up quickly.

The first set of exams has produced a puzzle for me.  Details below the orange pretzel.

This has not been a great semester.  Students have been sick (one had a repeated serious, but not life-threatening, situation that assured regular missing of classes because of hospital admittance), had car accidents (one hit by a car, another's sister was in a serious one), or other serious problems.  But nothing explains the problem with this last exam, one which the majority of students did much worse on.  The average mark was almost 8 points lower than the previous lowest exam grade.  I am a bit shocked by this.  I haven't had this sudden a drop before, and I didn't use a new template for the exam, and in fact several of the questions have been on either quizzes or previous tests (yes, I recycle -- I figure the content is the same; if a student has memorized an answer from a previous test, then he or she will know the answer and that is the most important thing -- but only for a third or so of the questions).  Half the points are slide identification, just like the exams they have had previously.  I will have to look at the exams in more detail, but there are lots of questions I have now about what went wrong.  

And it has gone wrong, at least given the evidence of this test.  I have years of data that indicate this is an anomalous semester, but I would like to know why the results were so bad.  It should not be that different a result with the last exam from the earlier ones, or from the previous semesters' scores.  Was it just a bad semester with a group of weaker students?  That happens, but it wouldn't explain why one test would be so substantially lower than the others.  It wasn't the time of the exam -- it was Tuesday morning, at 9:30 am.  The same time of day as the class; they all were awake and on time for the exam.  It was not at the end of the finals week, so it wasn't exhaustion or anxiety to leave town (well, maybe...).  I will have to come up with other possibilities.  These are hypotheses, and then they will have to get tested.  It shouldn't happen like this, and I don't want to have it happen like this again.

I ask myself these kinds of questions whenever I get an unexpected result.  And it will take up several days of my break, when I am trying to make otherwise have a relaxing Christmas.  I am teaching this class again this coming spring semester.  What should I do to improve things this next time?  

I was happy with the written components in this class.  They have morphed recently into a series of short assignments that are responses and analyses of articles on subject matter covered by the class.  The papers are two to three pages long and the assignments are concise.  They are also sometimes fun to grade.  From the first assignment to the third of the short papers, they generally improved in citation and bibliographic form, proofreading and written tone (more formal, more scholarly).  Usually average test grades go up, too.

Curious.  I hope I figure it out.

Suggestions?  How are your classes finishing up this semester?

Originally posted to annetteboardman on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 12:51 PM PST.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I will be taking a few weeks away from the Lounge (11+ / 0-)

    It is the holiday break -- I will be back after the first of January.  Are you doing anything educational over break?  I need to get a copy of one of the textbooks for the spring and read it really really fast!

  •  Love these diaries, but I have to be honest, (7+ / 0-)

    I'm not capable of puzzling it out today . . . My final grades in 4 classes are due tomorrow, and I can't concentrate. Too much of my mind and heart are in CT right now.

    I am simple, complex, generous, selfish, unattractive, beautiful, lazy, and driven. ~Barbra Streisand

    by GreenMtnState on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 01:26:39 PM PST

  •  My papers are coming in at 5 PM on Monday (4+ / 0-)

    All work in my classes is submitted electronically--no hard copies. That means I'll be busy grading on Tuesday, then doing a presentation on Vikings at a Middle School on Wednesday, and turning grades in on Thursday.

  •  Maybe you'll find a pattern... (3+ / 0-)

    in the kinds of questions they missed-- one particular topic that was more difficult.

    It's a good sign that writing got better over the course of the semester-- that means effort was put in! :-)

    Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

    by mommyof3 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 03:57:42 PM PST

  •  I have 38 papers left to grade for one school. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman

    I'm waiting on one of my readers to get me grades for half the papers for one class at the other school, and waiting on both the TAs to get me grades for the papers at the other class at the other school. All the exams are graded and most of them are entered.

    Grades are due on the 18th. My TAs and readers have promised me that all grades will be in by tomorrow evening.

    I'm pretty tired. I'm managing about 12 papers before I burn out, and then I have to wait half a day before I can bear to wade back in. They're kind of bipolar - either really, really good, or moderate/mediocre. That's why I can only get through about 12 before I have to stop and recover.

    "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." - Hubert Humphrey

    by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 04:44:56 PM PST

  •  Just a thought (0+ / 0-)

    each class is different.  Different strengths & weaknesses.  Its the law of numbers where, if the constant is the material, tests, presentation, then the variable is the students.

    Maybe this particular class wasnt able to master the material in this way.  

    I had a test (as a student) this semester that blew everyone away.  Top grade was in the 70s.  It was horrific.  So the teacher before the next tests, offered 1/2 hour study sessions where we could sit and listen to what she thought was important on each topic.  It was a nursing class, so I wanted to talk about Shock.  She would be concise and to the point.

    Each class will be different.

    Silence is GOLDEN, but duct tape is SILVER =)

    by effervescent on Sun Dec 16, 2012 at 12:21:43 PM PST

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