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Failing students: Avoidable or not? [closed]

Course Queries Syllabus Queries

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( 4 months ago )

One college lecturer often does not care about failing his students, another does. Say we are talking about a Calculus I class.

A. One fails students because they simply do not achieve the minimum grade set by him and/or the university.

B. One fails students because they cheat or break rules or something.

However, for point A, there are reasons that can be talked about.

  1. He might not be a good teacher. For this, either he improves his teaching, which more often than not means he needs more experience as he has minimum capability of teaching (he is not a school teacher any way), or the faculty just need to find replacement as this lecturer cannot deliver.
  2. The materials are just too much for some students. How do we handle this?

a. Should the materials be reduced, which then it will not make this class a Calculus class, since some materials are omitted?

b. Should the faculty accept the fact that these students fail? What if for ALL students, this Calculus class is too hard?

c. These students passed the admission tests for the university entry, and they came to learn. Should they blame or change the admission process to get a better group of students? This can be done in the future, but what if this fail of students is happening now?

d. Should the lecturer raise the average grade of the class so that some, if not all, students pass the course? Or, just by lowering the minimum grade at the end of the semester? Won't this affect them in future subjects?

e. Should he just let them learn as much as they can without setting any expectation or minimum requirements and grade them based on how much they have improved?

f. In conclusion, in which part does he adjust? The materials (future), teaching method (future), grading system (future), the minimum grade, or just let them fail as there is nothing he can do without changing the grades, even after giving them second chance exam and still fail, even after also giving them more tutorial classes?

EDIT: To add more consideration, let's say the class attendance is really good. Practice quizzes are given more than once. In my department however, almost all lecturers agree that our students are just weak compared to other universities, since the good ones are usually going to those universities. I wish not to agree with this, since I believe there is something a lecturer can do to help improving his students. However, students rarely come to a given tutorial class. Also, based on the admission data, accepted students were based on ranked list, not passing grade. I have tried making more detailed syllabus. Some students (very few) succeed, but others pass courses with very low grades, and this happens to every lecturer including me. I'm relatively new to this department and it looks like other lecturers just raise grades eventually (it would be bad for the department otherwise) and mind their own business later, such as doing research etc, without even giving tutorial classes. I am refusing to follow it but it looks like it'll be easier for me to follow this culture..but nah!



( 4 months ago )

This is a very philosophical question involving the overall education system, the area you are living in, the selection process of your students, the culture in your university, and, and, and. Therefore I assume the question will be closed, soon, even though this is a common problem which needs to be discussed.

Sometimes I feel we are in a similar situation at our university since we are accepting candidates with lower grades as incoming students. Some of them are not really qualified for studying at all, and it is just helpful for them to reflect this as early as possible, e.g. by early tests etc. Last year I had two students which quit after three weeks "because they did not expect they have to invest so much time in studying".

The only thing you can do is to decide to work with the students you have. Changing the selection process is difficult, the application behaviour can not be influenced too much, and sometimes the students with bad grades in school can show a great performance in their studies! So don't invest too much time in improving the incoming student's quality.

The next important step is: You are having a curriculum (and later on job profile) whcih requires certain pre-requisites in later courses. As a faculty, you should discuss which is the minimum level the students should have after your course - and this should set the level for passing the exam. It could lead to a reduction of the material, or you can classify some material as "advanced" and other material as "must have". Do not go below this level - the students will like it in the beginning, but they will have trouble in their later studies and in their working place. It's better to force them to do the course again. Be clear about this from the beginning, and if possible tell everyone in advance your expectations and - more importantly - whatfor the material is needed afterwards.

Regarding material and teaching methods I would like to reference to the field of didactics - many universities are having courses for improving the teaching style - take as many of them as you need! It helps a lot, and you are meeting local peers which are in a similar situation.

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