Saturday, February 9, 2013

Open Notebook Olivia

I encourage my students to take notes on the readings by making all quizzes open notebook.  They can take notes to their heart's content, and use them in the quiz.  The diligent students use this bonus to always get 100s on their reading quizzes.

On the day of the first reading quiz, I handed out the questions I wanted them to answer, and reminded them that this was a way to encourage that note taking that I was hoping they were doing.  "Remember," I said.  "This is closed book but open notebook.  Close your books.  You can use your notes."  Also, on the top of the quiz, I typed in bold "Closed Book, Open Notebook Reading Exercise."

Timid Timmy raised his hand.  "Can we use our notebooks?" he asked.  "Yes, Timid Timmy, you can.  I hope you took notes!"  "I did!" he smiled proudly.

There were a few questions on the right side of the room about the content of the quiz. When I turned my head several minutes later, I saw Olivia with her book open (her notebook was closed), writing down answers on her paper while looking at the book.

I walked over to her.  "Olivia----I have to take your exercise.  This is a closed book, open notebook quiz."  Other students looked up.  Olivia assumed an expression of astonishment.  "What?  You said we could use our books!"

"No, Olivia.  I didn't."  I was not ruffled. This has happened before.  I walked back to the front of the room.  The other students looked back down to work on their exercises.

"So, what does this mean?  I get a zero?  That is not fair.  You were not clear enough! I did not know!"

"Yes, you get a zero.  Yes, I was very clear, both verbally and in writing. But there are a number of grades in this category, and it is only worth 5% of your grade.  As there will be at least five quizzes, this is only worth 1 point off your final.  I assume you won't let it happen again."

"I am an A student.  I do not get zeros!"  Olivia was incensed.

"You just did."  I said.  "Let's be silent in respect for your fellow students now."

Olivia came after class to argue her point.  "I am fresh out of high school, and in high school, open notebook means open book!"

I wondered what high school she was talking about.  But I was done with her.  I told her I understood that she was upset, but that she should look at it as a learning experience.  Always listen to the directions you are given. Always read them.  Don't assume things.  She said she did not need that kind of patronizing attitude.  I told her I had nothing more to say to her about this.

The next class, she came in proudly with a drop form.  "I will not be treated like my feelings don't matter!"  She proclaimed.

I was thrilled.  Olivia's fellow students watched her go with amusement.  I feel a little sad for her. What is going to happen to such a dumbass out in the world?

36 comments:

  1. The dumbasses straighten up when in an environment that doesn't cater to and encourage dumbassery

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  2. Handled well. When a third of the class makes the same mistake, that might be my fault, especially if some good students are in that group. When one student doesn't understand, then the blame shifts.

    I know we hate to include anything else to our overly-long syllabus but "In this class, you will be treated like your feelings don't matter." might be a nice addition. If that's too harsh, just make it the class motto: Chemical Hamster Fur Laboratory - where your feelings don't matter! Either way, it's a good rumor to allow to spread. It would keep drips like Olivia away.

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  3. Our local school district, that sends a lot of students to my college, always brag about how they prep their juniors and seniors for college.

    Yet most come in with one intractable reply: "We didn't do that in Mrs. Grundy's class."

    The only reply I have for that is: "Do you SEE Mrs. Grundy anywhere?"

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  4. Have you ever noticed that they preface a lot of stuff they say with "I feel like . . . " or "I believe . . . "?

    They do it even when, maybe especially when, emotions are irrelevant. "What color did the reagent turn in your experiment?" "I feel like it turned red."

    It drives me fucking nuts, but I don't call them on it because it'd be seen as a dick move, when really I just want to protect the idea of rational thought from creeping emotionalism.

    I've also noticed that they can't -- or won't -- follow directions for their goddamned lives. I have three students right now with zeros because, despite multiple opportunities to follow directions and redo the errors, they cannot manage to use the course website properly. The thing is, they don't seem to care: they expect, I imagine, that I will just let them get away with it. I won't. They will come and complain. They will say, "I feel like this was unfair."

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    1. rofl
      :)
      Subjectivity is a motherfucker.

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    2. In your last paragraph you're right. And in my situation I can flunk them, they never get away with it, etc.

      But adjuncts and contingent faculty are often too worried for their continuing contracts to really piss students off. I saw it a lot at the community college I used to teach at. Students would get the free pass just because of the threat of a student complaint at a "student-centered" college.

      At least that's how I feel....

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    3. Oh, and they start with "I believe" so often because they have been hammered with the lovely notion that we're all going to give a shit about what they think...

      Ugh.

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    4. It drives me fucking nuts, but I don't call them on it because it'd be seen as a dick move, when really I just want to protect the idea of rational thought from creeping emotionalism.

      Yep. That's rampant in online teaching in the discussion forums. "I feel that the French Revolution was caused primarily by...." "I believe the process of photosynthesis can be..." etc. etc.

      Drives me nuts too.

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  5. I guess that I'm fortunate to have such a reputation, even among first-time students, that this kind of shit only happens once or twice every other year.

    The last time it happened, as I was walking back to the desk at the front of the classroom I heard the student next to the dumbass whisper, "You don't want to fuck with this guy."

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  6. I don't put up with any of that bullshit. Like Pat above, I also have a reputation of "firm, fair, and no one to fuck with". On occasion, I still get students who tell me something about how they feel something is unfair or I am not considerate of how they feel. I tell students that I don't care how they feel. My job is to educate them, and their feelings are irrelevant in this matter. Some drop, some shape up.

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  7. Many of my students have selective listening, and on top of that, selective interpretations of what the instructions are.

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  8. The student heard you just fine. She just figures it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission, and up until now it's probably worked.

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  9. I have never understood why students don't read instructions, especially when they are given simply as one or two sentences. I've tried putting them in a larger font, in bold, and underlined but a fair percentage of students still seem oblivious. Perhaps she understood you and perhaps she didn't, but in either case we can only hope that you taught her a valuable lesson.

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  10. We all know what happens to students like that. Have you talked to your Dean lately?

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  11. What is going to happen to such a dumbass out in the world?

    She'll transition to one of the, now all-too-common, open admissions graduate programs.

    I work for such a program and recently let the hammer fall on a group of "I don't see directions" students after, ahem, several warnings.

    > One accused me of abuse (!) for not accepting the assignment because of the horrible, terrible, no good, very bad things going on in the student's life;
    > Another claimed the warnings were never seen because the student uses a device incompatible with the uni's LMS and apparently skipped over the "it is the student's responsibility to insure their equipment interfaces with the uni standard platform" policy in the student handbook;
    > Then there was the one who demanded to know where it was written that assignments could be refused for not following standard procedure (that was an easy cut-and-paste from the syllabus).

    Open Notebook Olivia will surely embrace being Oblivious Olivia in my class!

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  12. Don't you just love it when students don't follow instructions (or don't even read the instructions) and then exert more effort trying to make it your fault than they would need to complete the course...

    I didn't think so.

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  13. I can't quite wrap my head around "open admissions" grad programs. Sorry, off topic. Still.

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    1. Well, life is open admissions. But if you don't learn to look both ways before crossing the street by the time your mother lets you out on your own, you may well be flattened by a bus. Increasingly, it seems to be our job to be the bus.

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    2. But no, I don't get the idea of "'open admissions' grad programs" either. That sounds to me like an oxymoron -- or, rather, an indication that the BA/BS has, as somebody just suggested on another thread, lost any real value. I strongly suspect that the high school diplomas my grandparents earned back in the 1920s were surer guarantees of actual competence in various areas, both intellectual and practical/life skills. While I'm glad we're no longer shutting people out (or assuming their competency or lack thereof) based on irrelevant attributes such as skin color, I'm pretty sure we've gone too far in the other direction (while also giving insufficient respect, and pay, to honest work that doesn't require a college degree).

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    3. Cassandra, I am going to start using that first reply as my introduction on the first day of class, except I'll end with "...and I am the bus, kiddies." That is fabulous.

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    4. Maybe it's all about the money. Get the tuition dollars and let them sink of their own accord-after the school gets that $$$.

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  14. Almost halfway through the semester and I have a grand total of a quarter of my best and brightest having admitted to even purchasing the required texts! Nevermind actually reading the damn things. Guess who is NOT bell curving if/when the class average is an F?!! :)

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  15. Hey, I used to have that on my syllabi: I don't "grade on a curve. At all." And I identify with all the people saying "not me, I'm tough, the snowflakes can't get it past me", etc., etc. After all, you're tenured, right?

    Have you looked at your institution's priorities lately? We're getting these masses of snowflakes with high school diplomas, who know very little but are used to absurdly high grades and I'm-so-special treatment. Institution-wide, if we really had standards the six-year graduation rate would be a lot lower than the low-60s it is. And yet, state U's are under pressure to pump those numbers.

    Now, given what we're getting from high school, keeping some integrity in teaching and higher completion rates are incompatible goals. Only professors care about "integrity", anyway. So here is what happens with the "high standards, no-bullshit" tenured people: Over time, you'll get vastly sub-par student reviews, which results in the more aware students avoiding your classes, which leads to large numbers of students dropping your class, in a self-reinforcing loop. Eventually, the combination of low student ratings and low completion rates will draw the administration's attention to you. And what better way to address the "much too high standards for our place" than to make an example of someone?

    You think tenure will stand in the way of that? Think again.

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  16. Wait a minute. The student basically cheated on an exam. Only because that was, in fact, only a reading quiz worth 1%, that doesn't change that fact. Instead of complaining, the student should be glad that she was not reported for cheating. If it's not too late, in my humble opinion, she should be.

    In case you wonder why I would say that even though I tend to support students, the answer is that I don't support students per se. I support the strict application of rules but tend to aim for near certainty before any penalties are imposed. In this case, though, it is perfectly clear that the student cheated and that, for academic integrity purposes, the quiz was an exam.

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    1. Monica, you are right. And according to my syllabus, any form of cheating could result in failing the course. But I have to remember where I am. That simply would not fly, here. I would lose. I know this. My syllabus is clear that any kind of plagiarism, even on a homework assignment, WILL ABSOLUTELY result in failing the class. Plagiarism has no outs, no excuses. There is no way that language got on your paper without you doing something improper to get it there (the most common excuse, and this is actually on my syllabus as not being worth shit, is that someone "helped" them and THEY did it, which is of course, still plagiarism even if "they" didn't copy from the internet.) But this was a little different. I am not sure she did "know" because I think she simply did not listen and did not read. That's what she was saying was true. She was so guileless about what she was doing. She was just really clueless. So, actually in my opinion, assigning an F (in the class) for being a silly little dumb ass would have been overkill. I did go ahead and speak with the Dean to get in front of the situation, and his first question was "Can't she just do it over? Couldn't she just have been confused? Shouldn't you give her the benefit of the doubt that she just did not listen and did not read?" Yes, he actually did ask me those questions in all seriousness. I told him no. I could not do that. She would get a zero on the quiz because following directions and listening was very important. And then (heh heh) I showed him my syllabus and said she was lucky I did not fail her automatically for the class (it says, for other types of cheating besides plagiarism, that they MAY fail the class and WILL at least fail the assignment. At the professor's discretion. Years of experience have led me to believe that this is the best language for where I work). And he let it go and said he'd back me.

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  17. "That is not fair."

    I've started asking, "How do you define fair?" when I get this comment. So far, not a single student has even TRIED to do so. They just look at me like I've lost my mind for asking.

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    1. Along the same lines...

      I often have students ask for mercy/charity at the end of the semester: "Can't you just GIVE me extra points? Pleeeeease?" On the other had, when someone ELSE gets a break, they want justice: "You gave HIM 3 points for that and ME only two - I DEMAND that you give me 3 as well!"

      Not that I abide by their preference, but now I typically ask them, "You can't have both: do you want mercy or justice?"

      Oh, the looks on their little flakey faces.

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    2. To a snowflake, "fair" means "what ever it is, no matter how ridiculous, that I desire." That's what many years of helicopter parenting has taught them, since whatever they yell for, they get.

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  18. I just say, "I'm happy to give you [whatever ridiculous thing they want] if you are willing to stand up in front of the whole class and explain why you and you alone deserve it."

    Never had a taker.

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    1. My dumbshit students probably *would* stand up in front of the class and explain why they deserved special treatment for this or that. I just ... wouldn't put it past them.

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    2. I've been tempted to make this challenge too, but I wouldn't dare, since I know I'd get too many takers.

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  19. One very enjoyable part of my work is to ask students like Olivia to read the directions to me.

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  20. If I were a student in that class, I'd call her a dumbass right before the door closes. Ruin her whole week and love doing it.

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