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morphis at niuhep.physics.niu.edu morphis at niuhep.physics.niu.edu
Mon Nov 17 17:47:32 EST 1997

This thread makes me both sad and happy that I am no longer a T.A....

linden at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU (linden higgins) writes:

>Many of them have never been faced with a course like this - I ask for very
>little memorization, the exams are mostly geared at critical reading and
>thinking.  I mean, these are non-majors, they don't need (I think) to know
>all the steps in cell division.  They do need to be able to read about the
>latest pseudo-medical cure-all and recognize that there are no controlled
>But the vast majority of them don't seem to recognize that I am trying to
>teach them skills rather than facts, and they continuously blow the exams.
>When they come in (if they  come in - most don't), the common error is
>failure to read carefully.  And how does one teach 300+ 18-20 yr olds to

Did you tell them what you expect out of them at the beginning of the

I got to the point that I had a page and a half riot act that I read
to my students at the beginning of each semester, detailing what
plagerism is and what the penalties were, strongly advising them to
buy a pocket dictionary etc.

I think my speech typically included humor, begging and threatening.

You might try telling the story about the bio course and the beaker
of yellow liquid to emphasize paying attention.

I went to a small private undergrad school where 90% of the people
wanted to learn.  I went to a (generally 2nd rung) state university and 
found that 90% of the students didn't care.  

Burned out profs (and T.A.s) and lapdog/cheapskate administrators don't 
help but I think the problem starts quite a bit earlier in the failure to 
teach/allow the joy of learning.

Do I have any answers?  Nope, sorry.


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