Thursday, March 22, 2007

Student fatigue syndrome or are they just not studying?

I was talking to a professor recently who told me an interesting theory, that SIU students get all worn out as the semester wears on and stop doing good work. The professor called it "Student Fatigue." "They just don't have the stamina to work hard for 16 weeks, so the quality of work drops as the semester goes on," the professors said. "The quality of the papers I'm grading now is pretty high, but I expect it to fall off the rest of the semester," was another quote.

This seemed like a very reasonable idea and so I have spent a few days thinking about it. At first it sounded pretty good. The students lose focus, just don't have a long term approach, go on a big bender at Spring Break, get behind of money, and so they stop working hard in classes. It is almost like a disease, the little darlings are prisoners of nature.

Another reasonable explanation is the students being discussed just don't study. At the beginning of the semester, there is less course specific knowledge required, so they do better. As the semester goes on, the students needed to work in the material that was taught in the earlier part of the semester, but they didn't do the work and learn it. They had been playing video games and watching TV, but doing the minimum to turn in the papers. At some point every professor starts to see if their teaching has taken root and then the results turn suddenly for the worse.

I think we can all assume that if the normal SIU student is motivated, they are going to get more or less straight A's, because of SIU's current management practices on grades? But, why do so many fail classes they should pass easily? Fatigue or laziness?

Your comments are welcome.

4 comments:

cynical prof said...

It seems to me the problem is invariably worse in the spring semester. While some students may be graduating, I wonder if others aren't distracted by outdoor activities.

Many are indeed lazy, but there are also those who have no idea how to study.

Milton said...

"Many are indeed lazy, but there are also those who have no idea how to study."

Those students should not be in college. IMO, this is a consequence of an idealistic dream that everyone who wants to go to college should be able to go to college. To make that dream a reality, we lower admission requirements, impose quotas (which select less qualified applicants based on criteria other than merit), and make large sums of money easily available. Then we wonder why students can't pass tests, "have no idea how to study", and leave college with huge amounts of debt.

We then go on to propose solutions to the problems: At present they are to refinance student loans and lower testing rigidity.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I wonder if SIU isn't going to be in the business of teaching untrained students how to take notes, study, research and other fact of life study skills? I don't think the kids are dumb, they just don't have the basic skills for high academic achievement.

Look at the sport teams at SIU, do they do better academically because they are smarter or is it the academic structure that all that extra money buys?

Since these are the type of students SIU is going to be hosting for the next 20 years, it might be time to take proactive steps to make the problem better.

I know people who don't know how to bake, but my Mom taught me and gave me the recipes I needed to get going. I'm not sure that is much difference between baking and being a SIU student.

Anonymous said...

Peter wrote:
I wonder if SIU isn't going to be in the business of teaching untrained students how to take notes, study, research and other fact of life study skills?

Prof X:
We are doing this and have been for ages. (Side note: research is a college level skill.)

Peter wrote:
I don't think the kids are dumb, they just don't have the basic skills for high academic achievement.

Prof X:
Sorry, often – but not always - the reason people don’t pick up the basics in high school is because they just aren’t that bright. Some people are lazy because they are bright enough to think about the long term payoff that hard work yields.

Peter:
Look at the sport teams at SIU, do they do better academically because they are smarter or is it the academic structure that all that extra money buys?

Prof X:
Football and men’s basket ball players tend not to fair well academically. Other athletes do have higher graduation rates than the norm for non-athletes. This likely because they do not have to have jobs; they know they will loss their scholarships if their grades go down; and they get free tutoring as you noted. Also they are “engaged” people, they at least know the value of hard work in one domain.

Peter:
Since these are the type of students SIU is going to be hosting for the next 20 years, it might be time to take proactive steps to make the problem better.

Prof X:
We are, we will, it will make little difference. Of course there are border line students that can succeed with some extra help and a more structured setting. But, we really cannot raise people’s IQs at this stage in life. Little kids, toddlers, yes. But IQ is pretty much fixed by adulthood. (Except in old age when it may well decline.)

Eventually we will give out fake diplomas like so many high schools do. Ah, but we are already there. Just go to the mall, any mall, and ask the nice sales clerks what they majored in.

Peter:
I know people who don't know how to bake, but my Mom taught me and gave me the recipes I needed to get going. I'm not sure that is much difference between baking and being a SIU student.

Prof X:
You think you can takeover for the chef at Tom’s? If you open a restaurant Peter, remind me not go there. If you open a school I'll just shoot myself.