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Physics teachers: do you grade to motivate, or punish?

  1. Nov 6, 2006 #1
    I think there's nothing quite like a good solid F to send the message "you're not working hard enough" to a student. I've received this message several times, and each time I react by doing whatever it is I need to do to do well in the class. In all the aforementioned classes which I have received this "message" in, I ended up doing very well, better than most everyone else. I accomplished this by always working harder than I have ever worked before.

    So far every physics teacher I've had has thrown me a good grade for having mastered all the material for the final – despite having not understood it earlier in the semester. They have also always given the thought process more precedence than the actual values. They have also usually mentioned or marked my mistakes on tests so I wouldn't make them again.

    I am the type of student who makes mistakes, sometimes avoidable ones, but always compensates for them by working harder. Whenever I think I've maxed myself out for a class and I'm still not doing well, I try harder. I don't strive for A's, I pride myself in being a B student. I find that I have to work much harder than most students to understand concepts, although this has never stopped me from succeeding. Like I said, I compensate for this by simply working harder. I love school and the universal understanding physics offers, but I don't like failing. I had enough of that in elementary school through high school; I was never an adequate student in my teacher's eyes. College has been different for me, though.

    I feel like my current physics teacher is setting up an impenetrable mound of obstacles in my path; our grade in the class is out of three tests, one final and weekly homework assignments. Since the beginning of this semester, I have consistently made D's on my homework assignments because of either careless errors or from confusing some concept on no more than two or three problems out of nine/ten. How other students make A's I don't understand. Each week I feel like I try harder and check more than before but I still make mistakes that kill my grade. What's worse, he doesn't tell me what I did wrong so I can learn, he just uses the same word over and over again (I'm sure you can guess what it is). On our first test I managed to hit the class average dead on, which was in the C range. I still took this as a message and continued to kick myself into high gear. The second test, taken last week, I managed to score 35 points below the class average on. Again, hardly any mention of my mistakes. Clearly I’m doing something wrong.

    I do not believe there is a limit to human knowledge or drive, I'll never be discouraged enough to give up. But why make it impossible to succeed? It is very clear that I understand the material, and my answers are always nearly right, but I’m failing the class, and I don’t know how to do better.

    I am purposefully avoiding details here; although I am a bit upset with my teacher's anti-partial credit prerogative, it is still my favorite class, and I'm still learning a lot.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 6, 2006 #2

    Hurkyl

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    (1) Did you try and figure out what was wrong?
    (2) Did you try asking him?
     
  4. Nov 6, 2006 #3
    I'd suggest working the next set of homework with another student or two. I know there was a guy in class who'd work quickly but always made algebra mistakes and got Cs. After working with this other girl and I, who are pretty thorough, a few times, he seems to go slower and gets Bs.
     
  5. Nov 6, 2006 #4
    If you figure out what you did wrong yourself, you will most likely be that much better at problem solving. You can also ask your peers ;)
     
  6. Nov 7, 2006 #5

    mathwonk

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    we grade to give honest feedback, punishment is just another unintended plus.
     
  7. Nov 7, 2006 #6
    haha. :rofl:
     
  8. Nov 7, 2006 #7

    mathwonk

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    another teachers joke: student calls on phone at midnight, waking grader from sound sleep, after 14 hours grading tests.

    "what grade did I get?"

    response: " F, whats your name?"
     
  9. Nov 7, 2006 #8
    With the exception of 1 teacher I've had, I rarely get a totally unexpected grade. I know when I hand the test in if it's likely I did poorly (grade < 75%), ok (75 to 90), or great (90+). Most of the time, as long as my grade is 5 to 10 percentage points above average, I feel like I did as well as I could do without foreknowledge of what was going to be on the test. I do usually walk out of a test wishing I had spent more time studying a certain concept or 2 and wondering why I didn't.

    That being said, I very rarely do worse on the second test then I did on the first. I also tend to do better and better if I take more then 1 class with the same professor. I think what a lot of us consider intelligence is more of insightfulness.

    I've known people that have had a lot more trouble doing some of the homework problems then I did and did not seem to understand the material as well as I did, do much better then I managed to on the test. Usually when I asked them about certain questions, they responded with things like "yea, I knew that would be on there because of...." or "yep, I made sure I knew how to do that problem". This is a skill that I don't seem to possess in abundance. Is insightfulness a measure of intelligence? Or is it just bad luck, i.e. how can the first traffic light I hit after turning out of my street turn yellow 50 feet before I get though it 16 out of 20 times per month despite the fact that it is green in my direction 60% of the time through it’s cycle? (yes, I actually recorded data for this event for 3 months straight).
     
  10. Nov 8, 2006 #9

    JasonRox

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    I like that one. :rofl:
     
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