Saturday, September 12, 2009

On maturity

I'll likely be putting up a rather lengthy post later today concerning thoughts I had during the first meeting of my latest faculty Learning Circle (on Allan G. Johnson's Privilege, power, and difference, 2nd ed., 2005), which took place yesterday.

For the time being, I just wanted to share a simple observation I made last night as I worked my way through this week's Calc I homework: almost unfailingly, seniors in any major (no matter how closely related to math, no matter how great their raw math talent) will do well (B or better) in a Calc I class. Nowhere is this more true than on the homework, on which seniors typically outscore first-year students by a substantial margin.

Why is this?

I believe it's because to do well in a relatively low-level course like Calc I, one need do little more than pay attention in class, take good notes, and complete homework cleanly and correctly and punctually. These things done, quizzes and exams will generally take care of themselves. Seniors excel at these things because they're mature, they're well organized, they're adept at managing their time. (In fact, I would say that the number one difference between first-year students and seniors is their ability to budget their time effectively.)

I've got two seniors in my Calc I classes right now (one an Economics major, the other a Health and Wellness major), and despite their relative inexperience in calculus, they're both riding roughshod over most of the classes' first-years. Why? Their homework is gorgeous; it's clear that they both take the time to do it right, and I know at least one of them does it in multiple drafts. In doing the homework well, they're solidifying their understanding of every last concept we discuss in class, and thus they're able to do pretty well on the quizzes, too.

They're no exception: in classes past I've noticed that most seniors exhibit similar success.

A tip for the young 'uns: start the homework right away. Seriously. I don't say that over and over and over for the fun of it. Take time to do it neatly, legibly, correctly. The homework really is where you do much of your learning, as you puzzle through problems and sort the ideas out from one another. (This is especially the case in classes less like our Calc I classes, wherein you wouldn't see as much hands-on activity as we do.)

For now, farewell. Next up: "The privilege to call myself Patrick."

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