Lean Teaching Book Q&A #5

Question: I don’t think our students would like me to shift from the mid-term and final exam structure we have always used to a weekly graded assignment structure. What kind of resistance have you faced from students?

Answer: I have faced virtually no resistance. Students prefer to have the work and graded assignments level-loaded, and they learn more as a result of this structure. Occasionally, a student will give me feedback that they would have learned more in the course if I gave mid-term and final exam. My response to this is two-fold: Firstly, the student has been conditioned over many years that learning is best achieved by mid-term and final exams. I do not believe this is true because people who do well in exams often fail (in various ways) in their duties at work (i.e. they did not actually learn the material). Secondly, I include in all of my syllabi the following statement: “These are minimum course requirements. If you feel you would get more out of this course through tests, projects, term papers, etc., please let me know.” I’ve never had any takers.

Overall, I have found students to be generous in their willingness to be active participants in my efforts to experiment and develop the Lean teaching pedagogy over the last 15 years. The reaction isn’t, “No, don’t do that! We love the status quo.” Instead, it is, “Finally! A professor is thinking about how to do things differently and is serious about improving.”

In my view, one of the things that hurts student learning and their higher education experience is the continued use by faculty of the pedagogies and routines used in K-12 education. Why do that?

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