I appreciate the feedback to the first post. I started this post as a reply to some of the comments but it became too long for a comment, so I made it a new post.
–I mark my exams. If I don’t know which notes were done by hand and which were done by computer, how can I generate a correlation? I don’t expect this to be strictly scientific and I think I can be objective enough. I don’t care which they use so long as they learn. My concern is that they may not actually be learning as well as they should/could.
–I agree with Tim that, ideally, the classroom should be more than data transmission. i fear that’s what students want to make it, hence the transcript. I discourage them from making a transcript. i encourage them NOT to regard the lecture as mere transmission of data but as a construct for understanding data. Naturally the lectures include data, sometimes quite a lot of it. I hope that by taking strategic and selective notes the student will be able to jog his memory when it comes time to review.
–As to assigning more reading – my students are laughing themselves silly just now! Don’t tempt me…
–To those who ask about recording lectures. My policy has been not to allow recording. I think Bob Godfrey allowed students to record his class which gave rise to the legendary “JK” notes. I don’t want that transcript floating about because I think it ultimately hurts the learning process. I want students to think, to memorize, analyze, and to demonstrate that they have a grasp of the great events, themes, persons, and ideas of the course.
I suspect that, if I allow them to record, that they won’t actually listen as closely the first time. Part of the goal of the course is to help students learn to listen analytically. I’m often disappointed how often students are unable to repeat what was just said. If, as I am wont to do, I break the invisible plane between lectern and the student desks/tables and start asking pointed questions about what I just said, I too often find that even though they’ve been typing away, the students haven’t really been listening to what was just said. They can’t summarize it accurately from memory. They have to look at the screen to see what they just typed.
–I wonder if all the stimuli to which they are subject (TV, web, email, cell phone, text messages etc) trains them that they don’t really have to pay close attention to anything. A lecture or classroom discussion becomes just another ephemeral bit of data in a constant stream.
–Then there is the phenomenon of students refusing to answer the questions asked in the exam. I’ve had students answer the questions that they consider more important. Sometimes students answer the questions that they hoped I would ask. I understand that phenomenon. The technical name for it is “lazy student syndrome.” That some students seem to think that they get to decide what they should learn makes me de Zengotita has a point. Students are convinced that they are the arbiters of what they should have to learn. When I demand that they learn what I think is important, we’re actually engaged in a kind of battle of the wills. They’ve been conditioned to think that they are autonomous “deciders” (to quote the president) so they don’t cotton to being told that they have to learn things the immediate value of which they cannot see. They don’t believe me when I tell them that someday they will realize the value of what they’re being made to learn and they will be glad I made them do it.
–I also suspect that students can’t or don’t distinguish clearly enough between what is important and what is ephemeral. For example, students who read assigned readings online do not seem to read them closely enough to learn the material. Because I’ve noticed this, I tell them to print out the assigned online reading but apparently only a few do because only a few are able to demonstrate that they’ve actually done the reading they tell me they have completed.
–The age of our students did drop by about 7 years on average in 2000, but that meant that generally academic performance has increased rather than decreased. In 1997 I found it much more difficult to communicate to “second career” students the importance of learning about the medieval church. They seemed (again this is a broad generalization with lots of exceptions) to be impatient and sometimes a little anti-intellectual.
–My perception is that a significant percentage of our students have always come from non-Reformed backgrounds. That may have changed slightly in recent years, but that’s only a guess. In any event, it’s probably not the case that students were able to do better in earlier years because they came with a stronger church or theological background. It may be that students now come with a stronger background.
–It is also the case that I put more emphasis on student papers now than when I first started at WSC. Students who fail to perform basic functions (such as telling me what they intend to argue) fail and it is now impossible to fail the paper or the exam and pass the course. This has forced students to pay more attention to the paper and, in the zero sum game of student time, they have perhaps paid proportionally less attention to their exams. Perhaps I need to institute an “all or nothing” exam? I probably can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) do it, but it would probably get them to pay attention in class.
–As to the current round of exams 14% of my Doctrine of God students aced the final exam. About 28% did well. That’s 42% of the class who I would expect to do quite well in their ordination trials. No one failed the exam (which is a little unusual) and most did reasonably well, so perhaps my expectations are unreasonable? It is true that the more often I teach a course the more familiar I become with it and perhaps that leads me to higher expectations? At the same time, I’m also clearer about what I’m saying and what I expect which makes things easier for the student, so it should balance out.