Skip to comments.Louisiana State University Professor Booted: Course Too Hard
Posted on 05/21/2010 5:46:33 AM PDT by mattstat
I have long predicted that as the proportion of high school graduates attending college increases, the classes offered at colleges would have to become easier. If they did not, then the proportion of students failing courses would increase to intolerable levels.
This prediction was correct. As proof, I offer you the story of Dominique Homberger, who tried teaching Biology 1001, a large introductory course for nonscience majors at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. A lot of kids flunked her first exam. And then a lot failed her second exam. In the end, about one out five students dropped out of her course.
Get it? Students were receiving bad grades! Grades that would decide their very future and control their fate. Horror!
The Dean, Kevin Carman, flew (well, walked vigorously) to the rescue. He booted Homberger from the classroom and had Hombergers replacement artificially boost every kids grade.
Dont worry, poor children, Dean Carman told the sobbing students, Here are the As you deserve. You are not stupid. You are smart. Bad grades arent your fault. Remind your parents to send in your tuition checks.
But, reallywhat excuse did LSU offer for this extraordinary act?...
(Excerpt) Read more at wmbriggs.com ...
OMG! What about their precious self-esteem?
I took two engineering courses that where not a lot people passed; static/dynamics and solid state electronics. I have to say eventhough it may appear that people are complaining that it is “too hard” it may not tell the entire story.
I had a Finance professor who gave multiple choice take home tests with only 4 to 5 answers per question. It would take hours to get it right. Talk about nuance.
There was only one question on first exam:
Are you animal, vegetable, or mineral?
There was only one question on second exam:
Are you animal, vegetable, or mineral?
I taught university-level economics for over 20 years. At one institution (and you would recognize the name), it was my first semester of full time teaching. Two minority students from the basketball team came to my office about two weeks before the final exam and asked for the exam. I pointed out that the exam was two weeks away, whereupon I was informed that other teachers gave them a copy of the exam to use as a “study guide”. I told them that wasn't going to happen.
Within two minutes, a senior faculty member (who was so far left he though Marx was a sissy) marched into my office and asked why I refused to give the two a copy of the final. I simply said I don't do that. I then got a lecture on how it was my “duty” to help students who come from “disadvantaged” backgrounds. My response:
“Really? So when these two don't make it as professional BB players and get a job using ___ University as an selling point, and the company discovers two weeks later they can't even write a complete sentence, you think you've done them a favor? What you've done is slam the door for all subsequent graduates from this university who try to get a job with this company.”
In the remaining four years at that institution, I never had another athlete take my intro econ course.
Just wait until Medical Schools start this. There will be plenty of doctors for everyone, all dumbed down to eighth grade levels. “Got chest pain? Take 2 aspirins and call me in the morning.”
I think the LSU dean acted correctly, and admire his courage in overruling the professor. In academia it happens quite rarely.
Her multiple choice was poorly designed (10 possible answers). A large amount of time would be spent reading through these answers until getting to the correct one (imagine if it was the last in the list). If she did not want to reward guessing, then she should not have multiple choice - only short answer (granted it is a bear to grade but she is holding her students to a high standard).
Also you can define any test in such a way that the majority of good (perhaps not great) students would fail it. I had Physics tests in college with a 22 average, and that average reflected the poor quality of instruction and test design as opposed to the commitment of the students.
On the flip side, the fact that these are non-science majors should not have a bearing on the test and performance expectations. Engineers and scientists take the same English/Social Studies/Humanities courses as those majors, and there is no lesser expectation on them. In fact when I went through the highest grades came from engineers in these classes (I was an Engineering Freshman taking a Junior level core Communications course, and I had the third highest grade in the class). Virtually all of the highest grades came from engineers.
If you cannot pass a real science or engineering course in college, then you have no business being in college. The same can be said for English, social studies, communications etc. No ghettos with inflated grades - everyone takes the same science (Intro Chemistry, non-Calculus based Physics, and Intro Biology) and at least Precalculus.
I agree however I will go beyond. This is an introductory course to not only biology but college as a whole. 20% is beyond reasonable expectation of failure at that level. That is something you would expect to see out of core courses and upper division. Physics for majors at the 100 level would(should) see a higher drop out rate than general courses. Beyond that I realize many believe that multiple choice is too easy it can be set up to be as tough as short answer(which BTW can be easier as you will likely get partial credit even if missing the question). Heck when I took animal physiology 361 we had multiple choice along with short answer and the multiple choice was far tougher as the answers were so similar to each other that it took excellent reading skills to notice the small things. I don’t know there is just a lot of missing in this story.
While getting my civil engineering degree there were two teachers who everybody tried to avoid because they were blatantly open about wanting to fail as many students as possible. One taught Chemistry II and the other taught thermodynamics. THANKFULLY I didn’t get the jerk for Chem II and never had to take thermo. I remember some of my engineering buddies literally being in tears when they found out they had to take thermo our junior year. Sucked to be them. LOL
Why were these in the Civil Engineering department? They should be in Mechanical Engineering.
I thought that the intro Physics courses should have been taken away from the Physics department for Engineering majors. Mechanics could have been taught by the ME department, and the second class could have been team taught by EE, ChemE, and ME as necessary.
They don’t take those type of courses. They would concentrate on courses for their major. For instance at ASU there is Bio101 and then there is Bio181, a pre-med student would take Bio181.
I think you are part of the problem and not part of the solution!
My toughest college course was Asian History (an advanced course.)
The final exam was limited to 50 minutes where we were asked to write everything we knew in response to:
Trace the history of the development of the relationship between (a) Japan, or (b) China, from 1900 to the present.
My Chem II professor worked for the Russian Government on Chernobyl clean up. She was brutal. She had at least a 15% drop out perhaps more.
It’s sometimes unfair to students when a professor in the sciences who normally teaches upper divisional electives and graduate courses is thrown into a survey course designed for non-majors.
Because so many American college students are not prepared for real college work, you have to met them halfway. Hopefully, the students who are better prepared are in better universities or in honors programs within their schools. Because, inevitably, the class is going to move forward at the speed of something like the median student. This will be too challenging for those at the bottom, and too easy for those at the top, if students aren’t adequately sorted by ability.
While I always have problems in the principles of economics courses I teach, I want to say that in my advanced courses for econ majors and in my MBA courses, I have really good students. It is a joy to teach them.
So, although we have some problems with our university system, allowing just about anybody to try to go to college, I think that - at least in economics and business - we can have some confidence in the product we put out.
On the other hand, I think a lot of people should consider mastering a trade skill and we, as a society, should respect people who work with their hands. Too many books, says Ecclesiastes, is a weariness to the flesh.
Science and math majors sit in the same non-science humanities courses as the arts majors, but arts majors get special watered down science courses so their puny brains won’t get fried. ( Hm?...What’s wrong with this picture?)
By the way...I have special contempt for education majors. If the U.S. was serious about having better qualified K-12 teachers they would do one simple thing! All education majors would need to take and pass Calculus I by taking the same course ( sitting side by side) that the science majors take. The average IQ of the typical American K-12 teacher would immediately rise by at least one standard deviation.