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Re: Reading the problem

I give my tests without a strict time limit--I let students come in and
take the test between 8 AM and 7 PM on the given test day (and suggest a
two hour limit--not enforced)--this to eliminate the ARTIFICIAL time
constraint imposed on in-class tests, and I allow them to prepare a sheet
of paper with anything on it EXCEPT SOLVED EXAMPLE PROBLEMS. This latter
is I THINK, important. Students TRY to solve most problems by fitting
them into a TEMPLATE based on example problems or previously solved
problems. Open Book and Open Note tests that don't directly deal with
this tendency will only encourage this strategy. {YES you can be very
careful that the test questions CANNOT be solved by TEMPLATE matching--but
that's very difficult to do}


On Wed, 27 Mar 1996 f_espinosa@VENUS.TWU.EDU wrote:

Recently some have commented on the inabilility of many students to even
read a physics problem correctly. Many years ago I wrote up a set of six
rules that students should follow to solve physics problems in both my
trig-based and calculus-based physics courses. Rule number 1 is to:
Read the problem (slowly and carefully). On the first day of class I
hand out the rules and go through each one of them always emphasizing how
the seemingly trivial first rule is so important. To make sure that my
students learn to think conceptually and not simply memorize, all of my
tests, including the final, are open book: students can use their text,
notes, and solutions to homework assignments. I have never been able to
understand why anybody would give a physics test that was closed-book.
Now, it may be that everyone on this list gives open-book tests, but I
do know personally that physics professors do give closed-book tests.
I have even tried to convince my colleagues in Chemistry and Biology to
do as I do, but the advantage of grading multiple-choice questions by
machine is too great.

James M. Espinosa

Richard W. Tarara Updated software (3-15-96) now available
Department of Chemistry & Physics
Saint Mary's College