Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Student Classifications

There is just no way around it and that is the simple fact that students always seem to fall into a few basic catagories corresponding to their grade level.

Amazing A: Intelligent and disciplined. You are teaching a mind better than your own and when you give them what you know they understand it better than you. You wake up in the morning with the prayer that you don't mislead them

Tough A: The most frustrating class of student usually couples an amazing ability to memorize huge amounts of material with a startling work ethic. Will allow themselves to be consumed and overwhelmed by the subject matter and are often frustrated by trivial aspects of the topic. Real problem with this class of student is the almost complete lack of reflection or retention. Will often attempt to get a good mark not by getting the intelligent right answer but by overwhelming with all possible answers to take the marking decision out of your hands.

Thinking B: Smarter than the average bear and willing to work. Good attitude and is able to show a level of true understanding of the material. Not only will come to office and ask questions but about things related to course from their regular lives.

Unthinking B: Has not learned a thing in the course but is willing to work hard to memorize sufficient material to get desired grade and will complete all the assignments exactly as asked for. Will come to office for help but really wants you to answer question so they can just copy and memorize.

Average C: More rare than one would expect (see previous post).

Deadbeat D: Capable of much better work but has decided for whatever reason to focus on other things and has a built in compass that lets them find the minimum passing mark.

Thrasher D: Leftbehind F student with a work ethic.

Deadbeat F: Could care less about the course and refuses to do any work .

Leftbehind F: Really shouldn't be in the specific University course (and probably the degree in general) sometimes because of poor preparation or discipline and is not capable of handling the material.

Of course it is possible to mix-and-match these catagories. I have rarely come in contact with Deadbeat B students that qualified as geniuses but had the dedication of a three-toed sloth. That is probably why there is so much busy work in my courses (to goad these students out of a superior sense of "I could make an A if I cared" and put the fear of failure into them). On the other hand the busy work also gives the weaker students a place to shine (Wow Bobby, that graph is beautiful ... wrong data and sloped the wrong way .. but still worth something more than 0). In addition there is the Poisonous Student at all grade levels that just makes teaching the class a misery either by undermining your authority if they are smart or constantly slowing the class down if they are not.

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For a while it was all about research and then it was all about teaching and now it's all about trying to find a balance while teaching at a small liberal arts and science university.