Listen, if you have children who are in school, would you kindly teach them effective memorization techniques now so that they have those skills available when they are in college?
I mean brute-force, no-frills, straight-up rote memorization.
Quit worrying about critical thinking so much and teach children how to effectively and quickly memorize a decent number of facts. Also, they need to be able to tell whether they know something or don’t know something.
If they can put memorized facts into a framework of broader knowledge, great.
They can think critically about information only if they have the information in their heads so that it’s available to think about.
This Public Service Message brought to you by a good number of General Bio students who apparently just cannot sit down and memorize the basics of the steps of mitosis and meiosis, or the three basic things mitosis is for vs the one thing meiosis is for.
I really thought this test would be better.
One student who is trying hard to improve her scores is effectively doing so. Whatever she’s doing, it’s working. But other students who are definitely trying to improve their scores aren’t succeeding. Why not? Because they can’t memorize a small amount of basic material. This is most likely either because they just have no clue how to memorize stuff (even though I have explained multiple techniques that will generally work) or because they can’t tell whether they can recall information out of their own head versus recognize or understand it when someone else explains it (even though I have explained that this is a common problem and how to avoid that problem).
Another possible problem is sheer reading comprehension. Maybe some students can’t answer questions because they don’t understand the question when they read it. A lot of students are answering “What are the functions of mitosis?” by telling me something about mitosis that is true, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the functions of this process.
A third reason, of course, is total refusal to read the textbook OR go carefully over the powerpoints OR ask me questions outside of class.
The students who ARE asking me questions outside of class are tending to do better, which is not astonishing. The two students who got As on the most recent test also stayed after class yesterday when I said I was staying in the classroom to answer questions for anyone who cared to stay and work on genetics assignments at that time — a time that I know their schedules are clear because the class didn’t officially end as early as I ended it.
Regardless of the various reasons — I know one girl’s dad has cancer — he is my age, btw — anyway, regardless, this is very frustrating for me. I can’t imagine the students are very happy about it either. If they had learned effective memorization techniques AND that sometimes you are going to have to sit down and spend an hour memorizing stuff you don’t care about, I’m pretty sure most of the students who are struggling would be doing better.
Next up: I handed out a genetics checkpoint — not a quiz, but a thing taken like a quiz, worth participation points and extra credit. I want to see right now whether any of the most basic stuff about genetics is sticking. I mean, the first question just asks: identify the following two-letter genotypes as homozygous, heterozygous, or nonsense. I would really like everyone to get this sort of thing right because if they don’t get this very basic stuff, they won’t be following anything right now.
Update: The student who emailed me to tell me she didn’t understand anything about genetics pretty much doesn’t. Most students are doing better, but some have not figured out that each gamete must have ONE allele of EACH type, which is absolutely key.
One student said that an AB genotype could be nonsense OR codominance, while an ab genotype was definitely nonsense. I wrote many happy little comments next to that perfect answer, which I did not expect anyone to give me.