I recently gave my second test of the year. The students did not do well. Even the students who did well on the first one posted only mediocre scores. It was a blood bath.
Part of this is undoubtedly my fault, but I went out of my way to avoid any subjects that were not discussed at length in class. I was not out to trick them or ask things that are only in the book, I kept it lecture-based and right from my slides that I provide them. While clearly I need to be better at getting some of these concepts across to them, there has to be some level at which I can feel like I have done all I can. I mean, they are the ones who are supposed to be learning, right?
As a case in point, I had a question on the exam worth 10 points (the exam was out of 90 points and only two questions were worth this much) that asked the to explain a method and how it works. I had covered this method in class the same week they performed in lab. As a follow-up, I discussed it again in the context of their results during the class after the lab. Based on all of that coverage, I figured it was fair game to ask about and have it worth so many points.
Virtually no one in the class got better than half credit on that question. WTF? They did it with their own hands! They walked through the whole procedure and the answers I got could have been the same answers they would have provided before I introduced it to them. To make matters worse, they were incredulous that I would ask a question about something they did in lab (and class, mind you). The class material and lab is planned out to be in concert and all of them felt that the lab was helpful for their understanding when I asked about in the mid-semester evaluation. But... they shouldn't need to incorporate the class concepts with the lab exercises?
I'm now struggling with how to go forward. I'm not going to hold their hand here. I will do m best to provide them with organized lecture material to help them understand the concepts I want to stress, but how much is on me?
Honestly, I don't think these students have any idea how to study (At least two have told me this), which leaves me feeling like I'm teaching in a foreign language sometimes. By the time I see these students, they are in their last year or two. If they don't know how to study it doesn't really matter what I tell them.