Thursday, October 10, 2013

Response to studying for Soc 101 exam - a gentle but firm approach

We have had two exams so far in my introduction to Soc 101 course. It's a "mass class" with 160 students, mostly non-Sociology majors. They take my course as a GE or as pre-requisite for business, nursing, and other majors. I actually welcome these non-majors because I see Soc 101 as a way to "evangelize" and recruit students to the major.

As it so happens, many of these non-majors are not passing the course! However, I stage my grading so that the weight of the first exams accounts for the "shock" of critical thinking and analysis (as opposed to memorizing formulas and anatomy). Also, most students think Sociology is "easy" and also experience the "shock" of not passing their first exam (or second). However, even though half the class may not be passing NOW, many still have a chance. It's structured this way.  Eventually, the majority do pass. Again, the class is structure to reward progress and process.

One of the main issues in the first part of the semester is how students study for the exams. The most frequent response about studying approaches is that they attend class and review lecture notes. Obviously, that is not enough and so I see the opportunity to socialize them not just for my class but also for their general college-level studying skills.

So, below, I share the exchange that I had with a student, which is fairly representative of a few other emails I have received this week as we approach our third exam in the class. (I have preserved the student's privacy by not using her name.) I feel that my approach focuses on the strategies needed for studying and places the responsibility on the student. At the same time, I offer the possibility that it might be an issue beyond just studying. I think this approach allows for mutual respect and a "can do" attitude for trying harder. MCI

 ~~~~ Wednesday 10pm

Hi Professor, 
I am in your soc 101 class on Mondays at 1:00pm. Will you be in your office hours tomorrow, Thursday or Friday? I need to pick up my tests and chat about them! Have a good night.
Thank you, Your Student

 ~~~~ Thursday 8am

Hi Student, 

I won't be on campus but I am happy to chat with you on the phone or we can "chat" via email dialogue. (I don't have office hours today or Friday.) My first question is how have you been studying?? mci

 ~~~~ Thursday 8:20am

Hi Professor,
I have just been reviewing the notes that you post and my notes that I take in class. I am just frustrated because for both tests, I have gotten D's, but I thought that I have gotten B's after I take them. I just don't know what to do because I feel like I am doing everything right. Thank you for all your help.
Your Student 

~~~~ Thursday 8:30am

 Hi Student,

I am glad that you are taking the first steps for studying: reviewing the notes. But, it's not enough and it seems that your grades are showing it. Thankfully, you have four days (including weekend) to study with a different approach.

I suggest rather than reviewing the lecture notes that you take it one step more -- make flash cards for example.

Are you taking reading notes on the chapters from the book? Do that as well.

Are you using the study guide questions for each book chapter? Literally answer each one.

Do you read over the supplemental material -- like the blogs, new articles, and short video clips? All of those are meant to deepen your understanding of the concepts that are presented each class session.

Have you use the film guides and actually written them out as you watch the films? This will help you actually apply your knowledge and invites you find connections between "real life" and the Sociological content.

I am assuming that you are attending class AND picking up on what I have emphasized as important (aka what I will ask you about on the exam).

Let me know what you think of these suggestions. Perhaps there are steps you have actually done but have not realized? Importantly, I want to know what is your plan to study differently / better for the upcoming exam.

Finally, if you are do all of this and still earn a low grade, let's talk FOR SURE about this. At that point, I will ask you to bring ALL of your studying material so we can analyze the gaps of understanding, etc.

I look forward to hearing from you!! :-) I hope this is helpful to you and your future success!  MCI

~~~~ still awaiting response from student!

No comments:

Post a Comment