Mmm. Not so good. It was the usual practice for my profs to make their TAs create the midterms, so I actually have lots of experience with that. And because TAs lead the discussion sections and review sessions, I feel like I have a stronger handle on what students can say in X amount of time and have been good in the past holding the midterms to something fair and manageable.
That was not the case with Stripey Class.
I'm not even going to comment on the nasty and horrible email I got that I read when I stupidly checked my school email on a Friday evening. Ugh. It ruined the whole night. I didn't respond and now I think I'm calmer and that it says way more about this student than about my teaching; but I think I still will need to go in and talk to the chair about this. I hope the student regretted it as soon as the student sent it, and it's really about blowing of the student's frustration at not having studied for the midterm than actually about me at all.
But then I went through the ID section of the midterm and it wasn't so solid. A handful of perfect scores, a smattering of Bs and Cs, no Ds, and then F minuses. Like 3 points out of 25 F minuses. I'm not even sure what I could do about it, as there is no way I can bump up grades on answers that were left blank. And I picked terms that I brought up repeatedly and that students suggested when I made them come up with ideas during the review session, so I thought this midterm was pretty damn easy. I'm afraid to even look at the other part.
Basically I hate reading in-class essays and find them useless if you have lots of non-majors because nobody will quote or connect things to the text, so I just did a bunch of ID passages instead. I said I wanted a sentence of the definitions and a whole page explaining the significance of the IDs. Then every single student went and bought the small blue book.
Does your school have two blue book sizes? My old school did and maybe 1 person would buy the wrong size --- or the bookstore would run out and you could see the late people buying the small size because the sizes would change as more students trickled into the room. Here they sell both sizes and everyone brought in the small one. I was also surprised at the sheer number of people who had never heard of a blue book.
But basically a small blue book is about half the size of the large ones, and I was expecting a full page on those. Instead, as I'm flipping through the pile, I got between one sentence and a half a page on the small blue book pages.
True, content is way more important than size, but if you want someone to make multiple points and to examine actual language used in the quote, they'll need to take some space to work that out. I'm afraid to grade any further tonight. I'll just drink a beer and sit in dread of them instead.
I dunno --- I could have modeled more of what I wanted for the ID part and written and displayed a sample strong answer... maybe I'll do that next time? I'm very resistant to dumbing it down from "doable in a short time frame" to "painfully easy." Maybe it's just the angry email that has me shaken. Maybe they will just need to be shocked into the recognition that this class is harder than it looks and they need to take it seriously. Or maybe, because it is a class that fulfills a requirement for non-majors, they do not care and just want to put in the minimum effort to get a passing grade and they are ok with whatever terrible midterm grade they get.
I should add that, though it was a short time frame, everyone was finished with five minutes to spare (that's when the last kid turned in the midterm) and a pretty substantial number turned in their stuff within 10 minutes. Although there's no point sitting around if you don't recognize any of the passages or terms. See, I'm a terrible judge of understanding students, since I never did that in high school or college --- I don't think I failed a single midterm. I know I had brain farts where I would blank on a name or occasionally just not recognize a passage, but never for the whole midterm.
Yeah I don't know. I guess I need to learn more about how to toughen myself up and not second-guess myself than re-learn how to make tests. It's just sucky because I want them to enjoy my class and learn useful and enjoyable things and be able to explain those things back to me. Sigh. Gotta keep in mind Dissertation Buddy's mantra: I don't need them to love me and I don't need to be their friend.