On the Cutting Edge - Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
Student Motivations and Attitudes: The Role of the Affective Domain

Dilemma - Irrecoverable Failure

(Note: this dilemma can be approached as written, that is from the perspective of the faculty member dealing with the situation below, or you can put yourself in the position of a developer working with this faculty member.)

In an Earth Science course for pre-service teachers, the professor gave two high-stakes (graded) quizzes to prepare students for their first essay exam covering four chapters of material. Grades on both quizzes were low, so the teacher chastised the class about being unmotivated and urged them to study more. The class average on the first exam was a 43%, with some students having single digit scores. One student says "I feel like, what's the use?" The professor feels she is doing well and is maintaining high standards. However, several students go back to their College of Education and complain about the course. The Dean of that college contacts the professor to learn about the problem and to seek a resolution.

Note: This dilemma was written by Ed Nuhfer & Pat Hauslein at the SERC Affective Domain workshop in February 2007 and modified for the POD workshop.

Proposed Solution to this Dilemma

Written at the POD workshop

We appreciate the high standards you are maintaining in your classroom. It appears that the lines of communication could be more open, as the students don't feel comfortable with the results of their quizzes. Can I help you discuss with your students what they need to do in order to be successful? I believe that if we work together, our mutual students can succeed in your class. We are encouraging our students to consider how they can create an atmosphere of trust and respect in the classroom, and this may be a great opportunity to work together to create that relationship in your class. The students have some ideas that they would like to share with you to help the situation. Perhaps we could work to clarify your learning goals and create a rubric for your quizzes and exams that the students can reflect on. A discussion about their goals for the class might be useful including returning to this reflection periodically during the semester.