Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Weed Out Courses.

  1. Nov 2, 2009 #1
    "Weed Out" Courses.

    Hi everyone.

    I wanted to know what PFers thought about "weed out" courses. A weed out course is where the course is made very difficult, intentionally, so that many students drop out. I've had one such course so far, a sophmore physics course. We covered about 500 pages of material, and still had to do lab work every week, homework assignments, and some programming. At the beginning of the course the prof even told us that they were making the course hard to get rid of many students (they acheived their goal), and leave behind the good students in the physics department.

    I survived the course with an average mark. A few students aced the course, and obvously those guys are just brilliant, and will excel in physics. I'm not sure if I appreciate that course. Anyway, I didn't appreciate it at the time because it made me quit physics, and now I regret that, and it's a bit too late for me to do any physics now.

    I understand the point of such courses -- to weed out the bad students, and have the good students cut their teeth, er, so to speak -- but is it justified, is it a good idea? Thoughts?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    What's the alternative?
     
  4. Nov 2, 2009 #3
    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    none unfortunately.

    its harsh but necessary.
     
  5. Nov 2, 2009 #4
    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    Necessary? Only the physics department has a weed-out course at my university. The mathematics department does not. Why is it necessary for the physics department and not for the mathematics department?
     
  6. Nov 2, 2009 #5
    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    I didn't start studying physics until I was 35 years old.
     
  7. Nov 2, 2009 #6

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    Students probably consider the course I teach a weed out course. If the admission standards were higher, it wouldn't be. I want all my students to be able to pass the course, but unfortunately, there are always quite a few who are just not up to it. There are some, though, who have finally caught their wind and have figured out how to study appropriately, just too late to pass. I have every confidence they'll succeed when they retake the course

    In reality, the term "weed out course" is applied by the students, not the departments or faculty. They aren't intentionally hard or trying to fail out that many students, they're simply teaching the level of material you need to learn to progress in that subject. If that course was made easier, it would just mean more students would get to higher level courses before failing out, but they'd still end up failing out if they can't handle that material.

    If someone isn't competent enough in a subject to progress further, isn't it better to catch them early so they can either retake the course to get it right before moving on, or have them switch majors to something more suitable to their abilities/interests rather than letting them crash and burn later with more time wasted?

    Some majors just tend to attract more unprepared students than others. Also, some courses are required by other majors, but only very peripherally related to the interests of the students in those other majors. This is more a matter of students being dumped into courses that really don't fit their needs. For example, for a long time, our university here just had one physiology course for all the undergrads who needed a physiology course. The problem was they were taking it in different years based on their various major requirements, and with substantially different backgrounds and needs. The failure rate was pretty high, because in order to provide sufficient content for the more advanced students who needed the material in more depth, it was going way over the heads of the students who were sophomores without much background in any typical prerequisite for such a course, but whose majors required them to take it that early. More recently, some new courses have been created to split up students at different levels to make it more challenging for the advanced students and more basic for the ones who don't need and can't handle the higher level material. I've pretty much gotten the go-ahead to create the final course that will sort out the last group of students into an introductory anatomy and physiology course given to freshmen to help prepare them for a more advanced course in either or both subjects. But, I'm sure I will still have plenty of students failing because giving the course that early on means that other than requiring a couple of pre- and co-requisites, I have no way to filter students prior to them entering the course, so the course size is anticipated to double or triple from the size of the current lecture I teach.
     
  8. Nov 2, 2009 #7

    f95toli

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    I think it is rare for departments/professors to "design" a course to be a "weed out" course. Quite often it is just the result of bad planning where two or more more demanding courses take place at the same time and the professors do not talk to each others.
    The "worst" courses I even encountered as an undergraduate was at the second half of my third year where we had three very demanding courses at once, all included very time consuming hand-in assignment, report writing etc. I managed to get through it (but not everyone did, I know people who left which is quite sad considering they were less than two years from graduation) but my recollection of the period is a by hazy, I remember being constantly exhausted. I also remember my first Sunday off in three months...I don't think I committed anything to long-term memoryduring that period:rolleyes:
    We were told that it had been even worse the year before, I honestly don't know how the ones who got through that managed. The program was suppose to be hard, but of the students that were suppose to graduate in 1999 only something like 30% actually, my year (2000) was somewhat better, something like 50-60% of the students who started in 1995 did eventually graduate.
     
  9. Nov 2, 2009 #8
    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    I love them. I perform better in them on average than the "bird courses".
     
  10. Nov 2, 2009 #9

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    Keep in mind that the people who prepare the curriculum for a major are often not the same people who are running the courses, so this can happen even when professors talk to each other. Of course, as you get further in your program, you will have more demanding courses at the same time. That's just the natural progression of a major. And, that's precisely why those teaching lower level courses shouldn't lower their standards to avoid perception of being a weed-out course, so that students don't get lulled into a false sense of security and then run into trouble in junior or senior year when there's a lot more at stake if they need to start over with another major.
     
  11. Nov 2, 2009 #10
    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    Out of curiosity, what text do you use for your phys course ?
     
  12. Nov 2, 2009 #11

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    I don't teach the physiology courses, so don't know which text they are currently using. They use different ones for different courses.
     
  13. Nov 2, 2009 #12

    lisab

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    All of my physics classes felt like "weed-outs" :cry:!

    And I don't think it was just me (although I can't rule that out). The undergraduate advisor said the dropout (or switch-majors) rate was 50% a year, in our department.
     
  14. Nov 2, 2009 #13

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    I always considered the 8AM classes the "weed-out" classes just because they were at 8AM.
     
  15. Nov 2, 2009 #14
    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    I have 8AM+extremely boring professor next semester :yuck:.
     
  16. Nov 2, 2009 #15

    lisab

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
     
  17. Nov 2, 2009 #16

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    Ha ha! They weed out the faculty too. I'm still trying to figure out how I can manage to teach only afternoon classes. Though, the worst was the freshman bio lab at 8 AM on Friday that I was a TA for. That was definitely a weed out class...it takes a special kind of student who can do dissections while still hungover from the Thursday night parties.
     
  18. Nov 3, 2009 #17

    CRGreathouse

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    You think so? I mean, I agree the term itself is used only by students, but you don't think the classes were designed like that?

    At the university I got my undergrad, the weed-out classes were well-known. They were all fairly basic classes -- none above 200 level. The distinction between those classes and other classes was so stark that I and others simply assumed they served their natural function: to tell people not suited for a major to find a new one (hence their 100 to 200 level). That there was only one per department* added credibility in my mind.

    While a student I thought that the weed-out classes should be marked as such in the planner.

    * Admittedly, there were two classes considered as weed-outs in Econ. But that was one from each track (Macro/Micro) and no one took both.
     
  19. Nov 4, 2009 #18

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    Only if they grade on a bell curve, which means that no matter how well the class does as a whole, some students are going to get Ds and Fs.

    If grades are on a set scale, then it's just that those lower level classes just attract a lot of people who really aren't good at that particular subject or don't really care about it, or whatever reasons they don't do well. For example, I have very clear expectations of how much students in my course need to know to succeed in their later courses, and that is the cut off for passing. If they all worked hard, followed my advice to attend office hours starting early in the semester, form study groups, and keep up with their work rather than waiting until the last minute to study, they probably could get all As and Bs and I'd be glad to reward their efforts with those grades. The reality is that they don't all do what they are recommended to do and don't learn the material well enough, and a lot of them either drop out or don't pass. They probably do call it a weed out course.
     
  20. Nov 4, 2009 #19
    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    Not all profs/TAs care about teaching and the students as much as you do moonbear.

    A teacher I once had who was a prof. for quite a while prior to teaching highschool (personal story why he stopped teaching at the university) and he always explained the first year weed-out courses... and he showed us how to survive them. He was probably my favorite teacher throughout my entire time in highschool.
     
  21. Nov 4, 2009 #20
    Re: "Weed Out" Courses.

    So, how do you survive the so called "weed out" courses?
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Weed Out Courses.
  1. Uhm goat weed (Replies: 18)

  2. Abstract Courses (Replies: 2)

  3. Extra Courses (Replies: 3)

  4. Camping out. (Replies: 18)

  5. Meals out (Replies: 26)

Loading...