Saturday, October 24, 2009

Out of the goodness of my heart

I just got back from hosting a study session at a local coffee shop. After the first exam, I felt badly that some students were just not "getting it", and this was something I was willing to offer to help students understand the difficult concepts.

We've been studying cellular respiration and photosynthesis, which are two reasonably difficult topics, especially if all you've had was high school biology. I scheduled what I thought was a perfectly reasonable time of the day, 10 am - noon on a Saturday (today) for the session.

I brought my notes, the textbook, and the study guide. I got there a few minutes early and got a table for 4, thinking we could easily move to one of the larger tables if there were enough people to warrant doing so.

So I'm sitting there, feeling benevolent, and the first person walks in. Then, shortly after, the second (and last) person comes in. Who were these students, you ask?

They were two of the five who are in no danger of getting anything other than an A for the class, two of the best students in the class. They each had a couple of questions about the lab we did yesterday, which they had already stared writing up.

So, no one that really needed the extra help showed up. I was of course happy to help these ladies, who, being close to my age, have built-in cred with me. This experience has helped me to realize something, though. My teaching contributes maybe half of what they are going to learn (as measured by the quizzes and exams) in this course.

The other half comes from their efforts - to read the chapter, study, come to and pay attention in class, and do the online learning stuff. It's their deal. With the exception of a couple of them, they are more than smart enough to "get" the material. For those students, they really will get out of it what they put in. I feel sort of bad, though, for the ones whose expectation is that they will be fed this stuff and then all they'll need to do is memorize most of their notes and spit them back.

I'll do more of these sessions, but now my expectations are a little more realistic.


  1. Oh that is funny. You should ask who's paying their own tuition and see if there is a relationship there...

  2. It's is often (but not always) the case that the older the student is, the better student they are. But I also have several students who are such smarty-pantses that they'd do well in whatever class they took. But everyone who does well does work for it.


Hi, sorry to make the humans do an extra step.