Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I don't use no f+&$%ing study guide.

I am teaching an adjunct class at a community college in flower growing 101. I assign one or two short answer assignments per week, four papers across the whole course and have a midterm and a final.

Today, 4 days before the final, I have gotten an influx of panicking emails. "Do you have a study guide?" and "Do you have a power point presentation over what the test will cover?" I wanted to respond:

"WTF, your BOOK is the damned study guide, try cracking it open you little mouth breathers."

I myself was never given a study guide while I was in college, I read the book, went to class, and I did just fine. Is this common practice to tell the students EXACTLY what will be on the test so that they know what to study for? Does this not defeat the purpose of making them actually learn something as they will ignore what is not on the study guide?


  1. I copy n paste ALL of the learning objectives from the teacher's guide and post it. It makes for a nice, long, detailed study guide as opposed to the short Cliff's Notes version they want.

  2. I rarely give them a study guide, but I have started telling them "two of these essay topics will be on the exam", and then giving them eight which actually work as a review of the entire course. This seems to reassure them and they actually learn more (because they wind up reviewing the whole course in order to study). Plus I get better answers on the exam, so everybody's happy.

    I used to hate doing this because it was work, but it makes setting the exam easier, so it all works out.

  3. I second the previous posts. If you don’t give them a study guide, they cry, bitch, and moan so much it makes your life miserable (not to mention the comments on your evals). So I take the time to make a giant list of topics, which basically covers the entire course content, thus, tricking them into learning everything. And they thank me for it and tell me how great I am that I give them a study guide. Go figure.

  4. Maybe the study-guide thing is an American practice; while my students always want a review class and to be told what they'll be required to know for the exam, I haven't yet had anyone ask for a study guide. Which is just as well, as I wouldn't give them one.

    When I was an undergrad back in the dark ages of the 1990s, I studied for exams by condensing my textbook and lecture notes into pages and pages of study notes. I learned -- and remembered, long-term -- more from that experience than I ever would have by being given a list of things I had to know. Figuring out what I had to know was the core of the learning process, actually.

  5. I've noticed this trend especially in the past decade. I honestly think it is the "teach to test" method in k-12. My students are now obsessed with those acronyms to remember key concepts (like "Every Good Boy Does Fine" for musical notes) and they apply them to EVERYTHING.

    I always felt, going through undergrad, that if I didn't know it by attending every class and reading the book, I wouldn't know it with a last minute cram session. But these students memorize rather than engage.

    The study guide is all they know.

  6. I don't know. I learned an enormous amount in last minute cram sessions.

  7. The reasons they want a study guide are:

    1) They are lazy and only want to study the material actually on the test. Why waste time memorizing crap you won't have to know for the test.
    2) They want a "contract" that they can enforce. "I won't ask you to know the capitals of Hungary or Romania since they sound fucking similar."
    If you put a question on the exam that wasn't on the study guide, they can complain- "but that wasn't on the study guide! I certainly would have known it had it been."
    (Of course, that statement is false. I recently gave an exam where EVERY problem was off the review questions- not in the isomorphic sense where I "change the numbers" but identical. They still crashed an burned.)

    When I do give study guides I put a caveat: "there may be material on the exam not represented on this study guide, and there is material on the study guide that may not be on the exam."
    The first part is in case I forget an important point or in case they can't recognize that problem 3 is similar to problem 5 on the study guide. The second is so they can't complain that I "made" them study something "for nothing."

  8. I too work outside of the States and never get asked for a study guide. I get a lot of "What's going to be on the test?" and "What's the format of the test?" To the first, I reply, "Everything in the course." I often give them a review class where I ask them to brainstorm everything they've learned and then I jot it down on an overhead. That's all.

  9. The first time I was handed a "study guide" as a student, I remember thinking "wait, do other people not already have something like this condensed from their notes?" The only time I expected (and received) any sort of list was when we were going to have a listening test in Music History, and the list merely narrowed the two hundred musical examples we had encountered down to two dozen that might be on the test.

    It was also in college that I first encountered people who clearly didn't know how to learn to retain knowledge, but knew how to get an A. Their papers and exams were pure regurgitation, grammatically flawless but dull paragraphs assured to get a good grade and even more assured to be forgotten once the term was over. I never really understood them, and I certainly didn't want to BE them.

  10. My study guides are HUGE and I think they serve mostly as placebos. They don't actually - help - the students, they just help the students feel that they have been helped.

  11. I have never gotten a study guide, nope, and I'm working on my second masters degree. All we get is a five-minute discussion of what will be on the exam, if it's not comprehensive and cumulative. Most of the time, we ask what will be on the exam and the proffie simply says "everything," but once in awhile he or she will decided to only test us on specific topics and then he'll tell us "Chapter Two but not Chapter Three; DES encryption but not AES encryption," and that sort of thing, but these conversations never take more than five minutes.

    As far as an actual handout that lists all the topics or tells us what to study... that'd be nice, but we've always had to make our own "study guide." I do this by typing my notes - by transcribing from handwritten to typed, I can filter out the minor topics and anything I know pat, and just type up the major topics or anything that needs drilling and memorization.

    My school isn't competitive (ha, that's an understatement) but even so, have never heard of anyone getting study guides prepared by the professor, maybe the undergrads get this sort of thing, but I've never heard about it.

  12. Before I had tenure, I did give out study guides, but I stopped doing this: this is college, for crying out loud. I certainly never had anything like them when I was an undergrad, in the '70s-'80s. Now, I just give out a list of readings, with a reminder to "take notes while reading, I guarantee it will help," and tell them, "here, this is a study guide." This works surprisingly well.

  13. I actually had students request my NOTES. External answer, "Part of the learning process is learning how to take notes." Internal answer, "Not in a million fucking years, ya hoo-hoos."

    I also once had a student (a good one!) say that in order to prepare for one of my Tests, she would have to memorize or know ALL her notes, and she wasn't willing to spend the time required to do that. At that time I didn't give Study Guides, and just said "study your notes." Go figure! She mananged.

    Currently, I don't have a problem with creating a Study Guide or Practice Test. Once it's done, I can use it again and again (material pretty much stays the same) or just tweak it for anything "new." I also don't leave anything out from the semester; if we covered it, it's important. But, I've never seen anything that would convince me that these really help other than make the students feel a little more secure and panic less. (Then again, I don't give essay or thought-questions which I can see could benefit from this type of thing as described by Merely Academic.)

    What really rankles is the sense of entitlement where, at least in the U.S., it's expected. If you don't do it, then you're mean and unreasonable for expecting learning from note-taking, class attendance and book-reading...well, I'm OLD school.

  14. I teach a non-major service course in prob/stat. Yay gen ed.

    I take a streamlined approach: generous mix of web-posted material, included core/base notes for in-class sessions, a rich deck of keyed previous tests and the like.

    It doesn't really help the knuckleheads - they'll perform an academic version of limbo, under-performing under any given level of academic support. My approach helps me and my good faith students more than it helps the malingering, mediocre knuckleheads.

    What a good level of test support and notedecks can do is to show good examples of note taking and a transparent standard for testing. It leaves an accountably transparent chain of documentation for the course. It also frees one up to mercilessly enforce standards.

    What this approach can do in a core course is to help a student, if they choose to do so, to learn how to properly engage a course.

  15. I hate making study guides, mine usually end up looking like the syllabus, basically a list of readings. I agree with the placebo effect comment.

  16. I have a tab on Blackboard titled "Study Guides." It contains the same Power Point slides that I used to provide under the tab titled "Power Point Slides." The slides contain a skeleton of the lecture I will present each day. Basically, if they print the slides, they won't have to write the headings for the notes they should be taking.

    As you can tell, they are "lecture guides" rather than "study guides" but the dumbasses are happy because they get "study guides." I can also tell from Blackboard that they don't bother to look at the guides, but I no longer hear whining about refusing to give study guides!

  17. Well, besides of the different negative feedback's about this study guide, we may still have to find out that piece of content which is useful in some student's to used for study. Maybe it was just fall for some little mistake about this guide.

    review of essay writing services.

  18. I have not only been asked for a study guide, but for a practice test, flash cards, and clear indications of exactly what will be on the exam. I refuse to provide this information, because I provide a question guide for every chapter we cover.
    However today I was told that this guide was insufficient because I would not give them any of the above listed wants. It's ridiculous. Read the book, answer the questions in the reading guide, come to class, and do the work. How is that hard?

  19. Ok I have read through all these and I understand about not handing the exam out before the exam study guide but I want to hot on these I walked up hill both ways forget reviews and study guide teachers teachers if you give students four chapters per exam and 80 pages of material with a 50 question test you shouldn't teach because one: we have four classes that's your ridiculous four chapters 4 more times so if we try to memorize your oranges and you test on apples it's a little ridiculous if you still argue reply to this mister or misses master degree and I will work to find 80 pages of two subjects that by the way you can't be familiar with cause your students aren't familiar with yours or they wouldn't need the course and I will pick 50 random pieces of information from these new concepts and administer two ftests if you hey below a low B your a hypocritical idiot and should stop teaching cause your obviously unqualified if you can't do what you call us students idiots for oh an by the way you have one month to prepare but remember it can be any piece of information our of the 160 pages for 100 questions so without a review or study guide I guess you can memorize each page or get extremely lucky and just happen to study the 100 questions I'll ask out of the possible 2000 or more take a look on the mirror and stop being bitter hypocrits

  20. Sorry for the spelling and grammar I fat ginger these stupid small phones


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