Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Contemplative Cynic's Midterm Angst.

Various answers (from different students) that have showed up on my midterm exams last semester and this semester. The midterm required short answers to various theory questions:

  1. I don't understand this question so I'm going to tell you about my morning. My roommate was sick so we went to the Health Center. It turns out she is pregnant. I think I'm the father, although she has a boyfriend. We had sex a few weeks ago and she told me she's on the pill and they were taking a break. I feel like Ross and Rachel. I don't know what to do, but I don't want to go home...
  2. idk
  3. You look really good today.
  4. The answer is in my notes and I thought this would be open book/notes, so I didn't memorize this. I think it has something to do with religion.
  5. I need a calculator [FYI: there is no math in this exam and this question did not require a calculator].
  6. Are you crazy? How am I supposed to answer this trick question? [The "trick question" asked for effects of colonialism on one of the African countries studied].
  7. I'm not a Buddha so I don't know much about Asian religion. [this was in response to the same question as #6].
  8. I think I know the answer to this one, but it's not the one my study group assigned me to learn, so you'll have to look at someone else's answer.
  9. What is a question that I cannot answer, Alex?
  10. Like we talked about in class the day that the heat wasn't working.
  11. 86% of adults die.
  12. I thought our midterm was next week so I didn't study yet.

And that, folks, about encapsulates my midterm angst this year...

- The Contemplative Cynic


  1. I once asked a question on a General Relativity final. It put forward a false argument and asked what the mistake in reasoning was. A student responded by explaining that was inappropriate to ask a non-expert such a question.

  2. On a Linear Algebra midterm, the last question was true/false (with justification). I began by stating a theorem. Then the true/false question began immediately afterward. Over half the class could not find the question in the problem. They made a fuss about it during the test so I over-clarified that the question began where it said true/false. And that the true/false question was asking about the stated theorem. The theorem had three parts a,b,c. Those same students who got "confused" thought it was a multiple choice question. Then they got 0's on the question and threw a fit when they got their tests back, citing that the question was innapropriate for being "confusing". I told them to go learn how to read.

  3. @crazyprof: Ah, but it was a multiple choice question. The choices were "true," "false," and "f*** up."

  4. One of my exam questions asked students to draw a diagram of a typical family compound in rural Starvistan and label important parts of it (ie...this is where they bury dead people!). A student drew a huge (and not particularly artistic) turtle in the space provided. Under it he wrote "I wanted to answer this question but this turtle was in the way."

  5. I'd give the turtle artist a point for making me laugh. I once had an exam turned in with something like "Don't fail the sad aardvark" and a drawing of a mournful little beastie at the end. I gave the student 1 point for the aardvark but it wasn't enough to rescue the exam.

  6. I had a student who wrote two pages of a five page essay and drew pictures of aliens on the other three. They were very good pictures, but not enough to save him.

  7. I nominate #8 or #9 for a framed cross-stitch.

  8. @Compost, I'm sure if I assigned them to do cross-stitch, they'd ace that because their grandmas would do their homework for them, but they couldn't answer simple questions about colonialism. One student asked me if it had something to do with the colon (this was when I asked for a definition of colonialism in class). I think (read HOPE) he was kidding.

  9. AAAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!!! Can you IMAGINE any of these children in positions of real RESPONSIBILITY? I am coming to LOATHE situations when I read some good scholarly writing, think of incorporating it into a class, and quickly realizing it's WAY too advanced for these pea-brains. We are in SERIOUS trouble, folks!

  10. I'm scared because some of those guys who complained about my question were Pre-Med students.

  11. My exams are generally short answer and essay questions. The short answer sections say something like, "Please write in your booklet. Write your answers in one to three complete, grammatically correct sentences." Inevitably, about a third of the students write in point form. A few boobs try to cram entire answers onto the exam sheet, ignoring their spacious booklets entirely.

  12. Maybe I should make this a thirsty: Have any of you attempted to teach students how to follow instructions? More and more, I find students cannot follow (cannot, or choose not to???) basic instructions like: Make sure you number your questions so I know which ones you are answering in the Blue Book.

  13. > Have any of you attempted to teach students how to follow instructions?

    Maybe you should post this as a separate thirsty, it's a good one. I do this in my Intro-Astronomy-for-non-majors class, under the guise that following instructions carefully is part of science, but then, it really is part of anything.

    I do this by giving precise written instructions on homework, and expecting the students to read and to follow them. Inevitably, during the first five minutes of the class during which the assignment is due, no shortage of students flock to me, whining, about what to do. I just glower at them, and repeat: "Follow the instructions -carefully-!"

    It helps that I've been teaching for over 10 years, so most of my assignments have been thoroughly tested on real students. It also helps that I have tenure, since doing this can result in the complaint that I'm “not helpful.” I like to think that I am, and in the long run, even more so.

  14. @Frod, thanks! I will actually post a Thirsty... as soon as I figure out how to follow instructions on how to post (LOL).

    I think maybe I've been teaching too long (15 years) b/c the longer I teach, the less they seem able to follow instructions. It must be MY fault, right?


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