Weekly Teaching Note
Mar 14 2012
Your Responses - Motivating Students to Improve Study Habits

Last week’s Teaching Note described one way to motivate students to renew their efforts after a poor result on the first exam. I heard from many of you in response, and you described the strategies you use. Here are several more ideas, from your colleagues:

  • One person teaches a course that includes four hourly exams plus a comprehensive final exam. Students can opt to have one of their four exam grades replaced by the score earned on the final exam – if their score on the final is higher than their score on all four hourly exams. (In other words, if a student’s scores on the four hourly exams were 85, 70, 90, and 80, and the student earned a 95 on the final exam, he or she could opt to replace the 70 with another score of 95. The student’s grade would then be calculated based on 85, 95, 90, 80, and 95.)
  • Another individual gives 10-minute weekly quizzes – the average of the quizzes is given as much weight as the score from one of the exams. Quizzes are given at the start of class, cover the reading for that day, and cannot be made up. This is a great way to get your students to class on time, having done the reading in advance.
  • A third person uses a similar idea, but takes it online, as follows: students are assigned reading and can use animated tutorials (from the publisher) to test their knowledge. They have to complete a short online quiz on the material prior to coming to class. To deter cheating, each student’s quiz consists of 10 questions drawn randomly from a bank of 30 questions. Quiz questions also come from the publisher and align with the tutorials. The instructor can look at the aggregate quiz results prior to class, and can spend class time on the topics that confused the students, rather than on the topics they know well.
Don’t give exams? Here are three more ideas:
  • Preview the reading for the next class by spending a couple of minutes at the end of class discussing how the new material connects to what you’ve just done in class.  You can also create a list of guiding questions to accompany the reading, or give the students a description of “themes to find.”  
  • Use the last five minutes of class time for student summaries. Have them review their notes and write a short paragraph summarizing the main ideas from the day’s discussion. Collect the summaries as students leave, glance through them before the next class, and display the best two or three as a vehicle to review the material. 
  • Break a large project down into steps, and collect the component parts throughout the semester. Give students feedback and encourage them to use the ideas to improve their project. Depending on the nature of the project, you might also have students review each other’s work and make suggestions. 

Your feedback, suggestions, and original ideas are always welcome! To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu

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