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The Semester - A Retrospective

A few years ago, I taught our first and only Honors section of the Introductory Programming course. There were ten or so students in the class. For the most part, they all came to class each day. They asked great questions. They were clearly interested in the course content. They were not without their warts, but as a whole, they got the material. Class days were fun, and I left each lecture with more energy than when I entered. CS150 Honors in Fall 2002 represents the Holy Grail of Teaching for me. It’s the experience I long to replicate.

Fast forward to Fall 2005. Habitual tardiness and absence. Failure to hand in assignments at a level unseen in previous semesters. The list goes on. My Fall 2002 CS150 class is a distant memory.

Sad to say, my new gig as Faculty Fellow for Significant Student Learning resulted in very little (student learning, that is). It could be my fault, but I don’t think I can take all the blame. The motivation and preparedness of students has taken a palpable turn for the worse. And it’s not just in my classes. I’ve heard similar observations from other professors on campus.

It’s something I need to reflect on during the break. I need to make sense of it all from a student learning perspective if I’m to be effective as an educator and as Faculty Fellow. I suspect the answer (not that I’ll have the answer) will be very complicated.

I’m curious to know from my colleagues at other schools. Have you noticed a downturn in student motivation and preparedness? I’d also be interested in readers’ reactions to all this.

5 Responses to “The Semester - A Retrospective”

  1. Ron Says:


  2. test Says:

    What goes on in CS150?

    Could it be that as students see (or think they see) job prospects in CS decline, they are less likely to take the coursework seriously?

  3. Robert Says:

    Oh yeah. Actually my two calculus classes from Fall semester were better than average, but still plagued by the same thing you were talking about. Just an overall absence of interest in learning among most (though thankfully not all) of the students. Lots of interest in getting the minimum possible grade, and no lower, but I wonder just whatever happened to the simple concept of taking pride in your work.

    Even my upper-division classes showed some of this. Major procrastination on major assignments, no attempts to spend quality time — and get help from me — on assignments. My sophomore class, consisting mostly of math majors, turned in a problem set during the last weeks of class that was so pitifully bad that I gave them a rare tongue-lashing. There was even rampant academic dishonesty and plagiarism, students ripping off other people’s work and handing it in as their own.

    It’s enough to make you wonder what in the world is going on. My plan is to stick to giving challenging work and holding high stantards to get these people to either wake up or get the heck out.

  4. Joe Talerico Says:

    As a student in your class I notice it too. I do not think I have missed more than +-2 days in the classes I have had with you (151, 363). I honestly don’t know why this is. Don’t get me wrong, I skip classes that I feel are way to simple and do not need regular attendance but i try not to make it a habit. Something else I notice is that people no longer take notes. I feel like a odd ball in class because i am the only one out with a pen and paper out taking notes, i just dont see how they can do it!

  5. Ticklish Ears » Rules of the Road Says:

    […] After last semester’s debacle, I’m planning to add the following “Rules of the Road” to my syllabi this semester. Tell me what you think: Here are some suggestions for success in this coures: […]

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