Saturday, October 25, 2008

Newsflash: Students Don't Study

The results from my first Algebra 2 comprehensive test were (predictably) bad. Though they were even worse than I was anticipating. The test included a reflection that asked students, among other things, if they felt that they were well prepared for the test. Most of them were honest and said that they didn't really study. I gave students the option to create and use a 1-page study sheet for the test; less than half of them bothered to do this. It's an ongoing battle trying to get students to see and believe that there is a connection between their actions and the grades that they receive. Many students wrote that they thought they would be able to pass the test without studying. I hope that this is a wake-up call for them. I know that they want to succeed in the class - I have to do a better job of teaching them how to study and convincing them that studying actually has a purpose.


Ben Chun said...

Would it make sense to have them create the 1-page notes sheet in class, perhaps while taking a practice test?

Dan Wekselgreene said...

It would, and I did. :) I gave them a full 80 minute period to do just that. But here's the problem: I said the study sheet was optional. So even given the time in class, many chose not to do it. They worked on the practice test, and that was probably the extent of the preparation they gave themselves.

I thought the sophomores would be less short-term thinkers than the freshmen, but apparently they aren't yet. I believe that, if I had made the sheet worth homework points, almost all of them would have done it. So that's what I'll do next time.

I also need to figure out how to help them make a useful sheet. Most students are still just copying down worked out examples that I believe they don't really understand. So their study sheets are basically useless. Come to think of it, maybe this is why they don't bother making a study sheet. I want them to go through their old quizzes and tests, figure out the kinds of mistakes they have made in the past, and summarize these on their sheets. I need to spend more time on this, and design a better lesson plan when the next one comes around.

If anyone has a good way of teaching students how to make a study sheet (or just study for math in general), I would love to see what you do.

Anonymous said...

I've made up a "Passport" with each topic represented by a "country," and students get the passport stamped when they earn a visa to visit that country. They have a mathematical tour book which has problems covering the various topics, and they use these tour books to work out the sample questions. I then allow them to use this on the test. They seem to enjoy this activity, and I treat them much like a "border control" agent does, asking them questions and such.

I, too, have students who prepare by making "bad notes" -- some who just copy down answers from the sample test. One student has learned to use a highlighter to accent trouble areas. Perhaps showing them sample copies of good and bad notes may be helpful. It could guide them in their preparation -- a little "Good Notes, Bad Notes."

AJU5's Mom said...

I teach at a community college (College Algebra and equivalent level survey course). In the college algebra course, I allow them notes but no examples. They have to right down the steps and formulas instead of relying on an example to guide their work. Their notes aren't always great, but sometimes it helps. Also, when I do allow corrections, I make them explain their steps. In the instructions, I tell them to work the problem out-loud and write down everything they say (or would say). This tends to help. Maybe you could do this with the practice test? Have students work in pairs with one student being the recorder and one being the worker (switching rolls periodically)? Then they would have the problems worked out and the steps written down in their own language.

Dan said...

This year I've been giving points on tests (10 points) if they turn in the practice test completed. About 1/4 did turn it in for the last test and of the 1/4, half of them did not do the whole thing! No wonder I have about 1/4 of my students failing this term.

I shake my head in disbelief. Maybe a failed marking period will wake some of them up?

Anonymous said...

Are you doing the single skill quizzes with this group?

Have you isolated an effect?