Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Better Than Me: Motivate?!?
My Intro to Biblical Studies exams are challenging because of the amount of material that they cover. I try to come up with a balance between basic biblical literacy and critical thinking. While I still require research papers and now I have students blog 2000 words per week, I find for the biblical literacy portion the standard exam format with identifications works well. I also have a critical essay section as well as a section called “Who Says to Whom in What Book of the Bible.” Yesterday I graded the first exam for two sections, and many scored in the 40-60 range unfortunately. I’m not motivating these students it would seem. But one student scored a 97, which I found to be pretty amazing. I was never that focused as an undergraduate. She was very well prepared, and obviously had put a great deal of work into studying. I wish more of my students could be so motivated. I’m curious about ways beyond grades that I could find to motivate students to work hard. Having students think I am funny, nice, pleasant, demanding with very high expectations: none of this seems to be working. My best teachers always made me want to work harder, and I was so afraid of letting them down by turning in inferior work. I want to be that kind of teacher. It’s difficult in a core class, in that about 3/100 are theology majors, and most of the others resent that they have to take two theology courses. They are especially upset that I ask them to do so much work. So beyond demanding so much work, I want to find ways to make the students motivated to do well in my course. Any ideas?


a student said...

While it is true that most of us are only in this class because we have to take it, I don't think it's fair to say that we are not motivated. If I'm not motivated by anything else, I'm at least motivated to receive an A in this class. You make it very hard to do that. I am no stranger to hard work, and I have no problem studying but it seems like you don't realize that we have other classes. The fact that theology is not a major for most of your students is even more reason why we shouldn't have to do so much for this class. I understand that it is your job to teach us about biblical studies. I understand that you want us to complete this course with some understanding of biblical studies, but overwhelming us is not the way to do it. People are more stressed taking your class than they are with their major, and it shouldn't be like that. I just think that if you really want to motivate us, you should consider the fact that we may want to learn more if we are not so stressed out about the fact that we are required to remember so much material. Don't you think that if we weren't so busy trying to copy down all these notes and remembering all of these stories that we stayed up all night reading, we would be more interested in learning. I think you would agree that things become less enjoyable when they become too overwhelming. Many of us actually did study for this test but we probably would have done better if there wasn't so much that we had to remember. I'm not trying to take anything away from the girl that received a 97 on the test, but theology is probably her major. She probably does not have to study theology and chemistry and biology at the same time. You are a good teacher, I just think you try to hard to be a good teacher that you fail to realize that we have many other responsibilites in addition to theology class. Don't get me wrong, I do realize that we are taking this class for a reason, but do we have to cover so much at once. I write more in your clas than I have done in all of my english classes combined and it's the same thing with reading. Just a thought to consider! Have a blessed day!

Michael Homan said...

The student who received a 97, as well as another student who I just graded who scored 100, were not theology majors. Nor did they have a religious upbringing as far as I know. The class is about the academic discipline of biblical studies in particular, these things they don't teach you at church. Those students who did well on the exam simply studied very hard. Their work paid off for them in the form of a good grade. I hope the things that students learn in this class will better prepare them for whatever professional direction they go. I want the class to make the students better people. Thus, if a student wants to be a pharmacist, I would hope from my class they would learn critical thinking, how and why to improve the world, and how to effectively communicate. Plus, some basic biblical literacy never hurt anyone.