Help me suffer less during exam-marking
December 7, 2022 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm teaching an upper-year course of about 20 university students. Marking [or grading, for the Americans] the midterm exam was emotionally devastating. What self-care measures can I take to make marking the final exam less painful?

I have been teaching at the university level for more than 15 years. The pain of marking the exams of students who do poorly has been a problem for me the entire time, but this fall it's hit me especially hard. I feel a lot of empathy for my students, and I want them to learn and succeed and be happy and feel good about themselves, so it feels very bad when I (essentially) have to tell many of them that they're dumb as rocks. [I absolutely do not tell them that, but this is what it feels like to me.] It makes me feel like a failure, because it's my job to teach them this stuff and then design an exam that accurately assesses their level of understanding.

Half the class scored 30% or below on the midterm exam (where 50% is the boundary of a failing grade). This course and its immediate prequel make heavy use of vector calculus, and yet some students were unable to write down the expression for the surface area of the curvy sides of a cylinder. Others confused cylindrical and spherical coordinates, despite all the relevant formulas being provided on 8 pages' worth of formula sheets (which were made available more than a week in advance). All the concepts and techniques tested on the midterm had appeared on the homework assignments prior to the exam. Some of the attempts at partial answers reminded me of the AI-generated art in which the figures kind of look like people but have the wrong number of limbs: reproduction of the appearance of a typical solution process but with no evidence of any underlying understanding. This semester has been the first with in-person exams after two years of online/at-home exams, and I am very aware that cheating has been a systemic problem during online education, but using this knowledge to harden my heart feels like unfairly writing off an entire cohort of students in advance.

I think this year feels worse for me because (a) usually there are a couple of students in each course who absolutely ace the midterm exam, but this semester there weren't (though I still had a small handful of A grades), and (b) I've personally gone through a lot of stress over the past year which has made me more emotionally sensitive.

The final exam is coming up next week and I expect to be spending the bulk of 4 or 5 work-days marking and scoring it. What practical steps can I take to protect my emotional well-being during this process?
posted by heatherlogan to Education (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any sort of online or in-person community of instructors? Connecting with those folks, who are undoubtedly seeing similar things, can be incredibly helpful.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:07 PM on December 7, 2022

If you are not already grading anonymously (that is, not knowing whose exam you are grading), you should. That probably won't make a large difference, but it might help you distance yourself somewhat.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:35 PM on December 7, 2022 [16 favorites]

One practical thing you can do, which you're doing right now, is talking to other academics about your experience to learn that this is happening everywhere and Isn't About You.

And it isn't. I work in another discipline in another country and everything you're saying is very familiar to me. Including all the ways you're leading that horse to water but it just refuses to drink.

in some ways r/professors can be useful for stuff like this but the cynicism level there is high enough to be kinda draining sometimes
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:46 PM on December 7, 2022 [10 favorites]

I empathize with you. I teach history, but I've noticed analogous problems in students' preparation and ability to apply concepts to new situations.

A useful way for me to frame this is that I'm not judging the students; I'm judging their performance on a particular assessment. The ones who perform poorly aren't dumb as a box of rocks, necessarily; they just either didn't learn this course material or froze when called on to recall and apply it. Some of that might be on me, in which case it's time to revise my approach; some of it is due to students' lack of preparation; and some of it, and in some instances most of it, is on students who just didn't put in the work.

Bluedaisy's advice to find a community of other instructors in your field for advice and venting is good. Some people dislike venting, but at least for me, expressing my frustrations anonymously to others, without naming my students, helps me be kinder to the students themselves.

I think we're going to see this for several years as students whose learning was disrupted by Covid-19 enter university.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:46 PM on December 7, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I feel so sad reading this. For you, for them, and also for me and everyone else who will have to pick up the pieces of the educational shambles we seem to have right now.

This is what I will say to you: you are one of the world's most important sources, arbiters, and creators of truth. There are other sources of comfort, resilience, strength, pleasure, joy, connection -- you can and should point your students toward them. There are sources of help, food, focus -- you might be all of these, but other people can do those, too. You're the one person who can say yes, this is right, you have an understanding that connects to other understandings, or no, you may be awesome in other ways, but if you try to do civil engineering or medicine or anything others depend on, or if you proceed in life believing that what you are experiencing is truth and understanding, you will ultimately hurt people; you need to do X thing to really know what knowing is like, or to accept that you do not know -- and recognize that many many people also do not have this knowing, and that's fine -- and be smart enough to step aside when that kind of knowledge is required.

You are empowered by your position to be a source of this kind of truth. This is very important! I am incredibly grateful to you. I need you to do this, and your students need you to do this.

But you are only judging their understanding of a specific area, not their understanding of what is good in the world.

This is math you are testing them on, not their value as people. This is not the weighing of souls.
posted by amtho at 1:50 PM on December 7, 2022 [17 favorites]

They're not "dumb as rocks". They're choosing not to use their time wisely.
Remember that.
They're PAYING the university for providing an education.
It's up to THEM to make good use of it.

If you go purchase an item, you, too, can either use it wisely - or choose not to.
You buy a car, you can drive it and take care of it... or you can leave it out in the rain, unlocked, windows down, in the worst area of the city.

You buy a five course meal at an expensive restaurant, you can eat it and enjoy it... or you can wait til it arrives, and flip the table.

You buy a $10,000 bottle of wine... you can sip it and enjoy it, or you can smash it on the ground.

You provide the service. So long as you're doing so reasonably competently, you're NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW THEY CHOOSE TO USE IT.

Remember that. Even when one tries to guilt you.
They're almost certainly CHOOSING their grades by their actions.

If they really have a tragedy or unavoidable circumstance... it won't be at the last minute, and it won't be everyone, and it won't be constant, even with the same person.

Those few are the ones you work with.

The rest of them - if they want to pay (or use their parent's money) to fail - let them.

Someone obviously needed to let them fail long ago.

Seriously. Marking papers should be impartial. That's why rubrics should be used, when there are not cut and dried answers. Make out your OWN answer sheet ahead of time, decide what answers are acceptable, and if there are any partial points given, what they're for.

And then follow it. Don't deviate from it - in fact, don't even look at the names on the papers. Simply grade the papers and hand out the results. (This also helps prevent accusations of favoritism/bias. Keep those answer guides.)

If you *really* feel like you can't keep yourself from looking at the names... one option would be to set up a numbering system for the exams to have so that you can't just look at the name.
posted by stormyteal at 1:50 PM on December 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

so it feels very bad when I (essentially) have to tell many of them that they're dumb as rocks. [I absolutely do not tell them that, but this is what it feels like to me.]

I don't know if this helps any, but they're not dumb as rocks. They have any number of skills and types of intelligence, some of which unfortunately might not have applicable in this course and some of which they might have chosen not to apply during the course. But either way, you're not telling them they're stupid, or that they can't learn these things. You're just telling them they don't have the material down yet. And that if they want to learn it, their work just isn't over. Maybe, assuming it's a done thing, you can write them notes to that effect - 'your score is under the passing level, but you've shown improvement since the midterm and if you keep working at it I think you can do well if you take the course a second time', or something along those lines.

There's so much pressure (financial, social) to finish a degree, and learn material, in a set amount of time. But we're all different and learn at different paces, and I wish repeating classes were more normalized, because that's something a lot of people need.

I'm going to assume that your department is aware of the problem and that everyone is working and will keep working to find ways to make sure students are well-prepared for each course level, and that they get as much help as possible during each course. Remember that this isn't a personal or moral failure of yours, or even of students who receive a failing grade; and that students can be happy and succeed in life even if they have to repeat a course, or even if they decide that the type of learning the course requires is not a good fit for their skills.

On a really practical level, I'd do things like try to have a limited number of hours spent marking each day; maybe schedule something like a massage to help let go of tension, or do yoga or whatever works for you; listen to good music; do things that let you feel good.
posted by trig at 1:53 PM on December 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

When I was teaching and had to mark final exams, I would take a sheet of paper and draw a box for each exam I had to mark. (So 20 boxes for 20 students.) Then I would set a timer for how long I thought each one should take. (About 30 minutes for me.). When the timer went off, if I was still working, I would set another timer for 10 minutes to finish. (I always left lots of comments; not sure if students ever read them.)

And then that was it. Done. No more time allowed. I filled in one of those boxes very carefully, which felt really good.

And then after each one (yes each one!) I gave myself a good treat. And I mean a real treat, not these wellness treats (a jog, meditation, glass of water, mug of herbal tea -- nope, not going to cut it.) I mean, 10 minutes of Golden Girls. A chocolate teacake. A gossipy call with my best friend. 15 minutes of NY Magazine. Ebay scrolling. You know what this is for you.

Then rinse and repeat till all 20 boxes were filled in.

You can do this, and you know it's not about you. Not that it makes it easier, but you aren't telling them anything they don't know already; they KNOW they don't know the material.
posted by heavenknows at 2:21 PM on December 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

I also teach math. Many years ago, I made any problem I could in upper level courses worth only 5 points. I tell my students that when I was in grad school, I T.A.'d for a professor who had problems that often counted 8 points and with several different T.A.s in her course, it was almost impossible for us to grade consistently even with the rubric she gave us.

If the problem is worth 5 points, it's automatically 1 point for an arithmetic mistake, and then you get graded (say, in a long integral problem) based on how many steps of the problem you completed correctly. Set up correct - 2points. Correct integration method: three points and so on.

I found it much easier to grade consistently this way, and the students seem to appreciate it as well.
I don't know if this will solve the emotional issue but I think it might allow you to reframe how you are grading.
Obviously, YMMV.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:28 PM on December 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Two things that help me as I'm grading:
(1) Anonymous grading -- insofar as it's possible -- makes it much easier for me to not mentally associate my image of a given student with their answer on an exam

(2) Grade exams by question (part) and switch the order of the papers every question part. this helps me be consistent about how I'm grading questions and takes away the bias that comes with looking at a question first/last, which also makes me feel better about how I'm doing it.

As others say, too, some of it is a matter of students optimizing their time and effort. That doesn't make them dumb or what you're doing worthless, but it does mean that sometimes they won't do well. They're making choices. The exam gives feedback so they can make good ones in the future.
posted by dismas at 2:38 PM on December 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this helps at all, but I can tell you that as a student who failed more than one exam in college, I never felt like it was the professor telling me I was dumb. I also usually did not think it was the professor failing to properly teach the material. I knew that I wasted too much time goofing off, rarely did the reading or homework, and deserved the grade I got. Certainly in hindsight as a much older person I wish I had spent my college years (and dollars) more wisely, but 18 year olds will be 18 year olds....
posted by primethyme at 2:48 PM on December 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

I suspect you need to distance yourself from your students' performance in this exam. They either learned the material or they did not. If they did not, they need to find that out at some point and it may as well be now. And then, remind yourself that doing badly in one course will not ruin their academic careers. I have two friends who failed fluid dynamics (scoring in the 30s, when the pass mark is 40) who went on to achieve firsts and successfully completed applied maths PhDs. It's 20 papers and 4 to 5 days work and then it is done.

On a practical note, perhaps reward yourself with something tangible for each paper marked. With bonus awards at the 5, 10, 15 and 20 paper points.
posted by plonkee at 2:48 PM on December 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I prefer an alternative (cynical) take on grades... that they are a measure of how good someone is at "hoop jumping" at a particular moment. Even Olympic level hoop jumpers are going to have off days, but the question is can they get it together for the big event? And if they can't... that's not to say they cannot or will not in the future. And of course hoop jumping requires the "right equipment." It sounds like a lot of your students are bringing snowboards to the summer Olympics. Snowboards make terrible surfboards.

After the term is over, you can do the appropriate postmortem with your department. But you need to finish the grading first.
posted by oceano at 2:49 PM on December 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Oof. I feel this. I teach in a very different field, but most of my students are struggling in one way or another. These are primarily young adults who don't have full executive brain function yet but have endured a huge amount of upheaval, loss, and trauma over the last few years. It has hit them hard and they genuinely don't know how to cope with it. Most of them are dealing with anxiety and depression, grief, poor sleep, increased family responsibilities and more.

Yes, I think it's important to hold students accountable for learning the material, but I have also chosen to work from a place of compassion. I have seriously questioned how and why I am assessing their understanding of the material. This has led me to change how I structure exams and assessments. In my field, practically speaking, if a student needs to calculate XYZ in the future and doesn't recall the formula, they can easily look it up. So I had to ask myself: does it genuinely prepare students for their future to memorize this or is it more important that they understand the concept and why it is being done? Obviously, YMMV and this might not be an option for you at this time, but maybe food for thought? Sadly, I think it will take several years before students are fully back in the groove.

Concrete steps:

Commit to your schedule for grading. Resist the urge to put it off because you anticipate how hard it will be. Get it done so that it's over.

Consider body doubling - having someone else in the room/on a video call who is also doing their own work. Schedule short breaks every hour to chat for a few minutes, step away from the grading, etc. Having company can help keep you accountable but also knowing someone else is around can provide some emotional support, even if you don't talk at all.

Have a reward at the end of each grading session. Take a few minutes to unwind and purposely end your work session. Play a favorite song (dance party?), have a nice beverage, a walk, or whatever feels good and lets you come out of that headspace. On preview, I love heavenknows suggestions for treats as you finish each exam, but I still vote for a ritualized way to decompress at the end of each day - so maybe save the best treat for the end of the day?

Prioritize your self care. Eat food that supports and nourishes you emotionally and physically - it's ok if you lean towards comfort and convenience foods right now if that will make things easier during the grading period! Practice good sleep hygiene as it works best for you. Long hot showers/baths or other soothing things. Wear physically comfortable/cozy clothes when you are grading.
posted by jenquat at 2:54 PM on December 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

They're not "dumb as rocks". They're choosing not to use their time wisely.
Remember that.
They're PAYING the university for providing an education.
It's up to THEM to make good use of it.

Oh wow, this is certainly lack in compassion. This is a path to cynicism and burnout. I know you are struggling, but you feeling bad strikes me as much better than this, if it's the alternative. As you know, students are going through an incredibly stressful time, and unless we as individuals had an experience of displacement from our communities and educational path for a significant period of time, we can't relate. They lost connection and education during an incredibly important time in their social, physical, and educational development. Compassion here is so key.

Having said all this: you can't solve this on your own. The system failed them, and that doesn't mean one individual instructor can solve this. We are all stretched to our limit.

However, perhaps these exams are also feedback to you about where students are struggling. It doesn't exactly matter that some students used to ace the midterm. Those students didn't endure a worldwide pandemic when their brains were still developing. These students have gaps they don't even know they have. You are seeing that on this exam.

Yes, certainly some or many of them aren't using their time well. Others might be suffering some long term Covid-related brain fog (and they might not even know!). In the big picture, maybe you all will have to experiment with new forms of approaching the material or perhaps there will need to be some curriculum revisions to address these gaps.

So I'd use this time to assess partly how you might make sure, in future semesters, you let students know about resources upfront. Can they access additional tutoring? Could you have a practice exam along the way? Is what you are testing the stuff they need to know? Is memorization most important or is there another skill or knowledge you can test?

And, in the short term, put on some relaxing music, make yourself a cup of tea, and perhaps ask students to put a number on their exam (making sure you have the key!) so you don't see their names as you grade. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:01 PM on December 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

When I grade final exams, every single failing grade HURTS. I know it shouldn't, as do you, but it feels like I'm failing the students.

These past few years have been miserable in that regard. It's really not just you. Talking to others in different places and teaching from elementary to university I hear the same thing.

Anonymous grading (If not easy, I do ALL of one page for the whole class, then ALL of the second, so I don't get the sense I'm being mean, and I can identify themes in wrong answers) works a bit, but of course you still have to record their grades.
Completely lowering your standards sounds like it would work, but wrong is wrong. I can overlook errors in many ways, but if the answer makes no sense then it just makes no sense.

One alternative to blind grading is:
mostly blind grading.
I take two exams from students I know will probably do well, and I make sure to mark them first (to set a baseline for myself) and last (as a reward).
That's the best 'treat' for myself that I've found.

I do provide a VERY low-level primer for the exams on youtube. I make a video with some of the major types of problem they can expect to see, and verrry slowly talk through my whole thought process.
How do I know what kind of question it is?
How many marks is it worth, and what are those marks probably for?
How do I choose a formula amongst the many on the sheet?
What will my answer look like?

It's going to drive you mad to do, but I think the brain fog is real. I think it helps.

There's no real getting around it, though. It's going to suck, and then it will be over. If you find that the bad feelings are staying with you, please ask for help. I ended up doing some therapy and taking some antidepressants to recover from similar feelings. Most people who teach are compassionate, and it's something that can have a huge effect on our mental health!
posted by Acari at 3:14 PM on December 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, OP, I bounced hard off vector calculus thirty years ago, it was the very first thing that I failed to understand even after putting my mind on it 100%. That exam was devastating, I still have nightmares about it.

but that was a bump in the road, not a brick wall. I have had much personal and professional success since.
posted by Sauce Trough at 3:50 PM on December 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

I wish that I had an answer. I have longitudinal contact with some students where it takes > 1 year for there to be obvious progress. I also evaluate medical trainees, where there is simply no alternative to getting it right. I try to view / phrase the (sometimes very heavy) evaluations as finding the needs of each student. For some those needs are beyond what is acceptable to move on to the next stage / plausible to remediate on their own.

It may be an effective coping mechanism to intellectualize the problem. Even if you are not an education researcher, accumulate your observations on their learning patterns and take them to other faculty to investigate what has been (in)effective in preventing these anti-patterns.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:55 PM on December 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

If 50% are scoring under 30% I would suggest there’s so,ethung wrong with the course. The aim of an exam is to evaluate whether the course has taught what it should. If that many are that dumb, then the course needs to spend more time on basics, or they need not to have passed the requirement course. If that many are unengaged, then the course needs to be more engaging.
posted by Iteki at 10:26 PM on December 7, 2022

I remember one course I took years ago, in which lots of students struggled. The prof had TAs run special tutorials on several days ahead of the exam (both after the class, and during extra tutorial hours). Would something like that be possible? Could you pull in a few grad students as a kind of emergency measure, if the department head would agree? Perhaps you could also remind students about the other resources at the university (learning centre; health centre if they’re experiencing mental health challenges)? I can’t remember now if it’s usually too late to drop classes, but if they still can without academic or financial penalty, maybe a reminder of that wouldn’t be a bad thing for some?

I guess the fact that they’re even turning up at all should be seen as a compliment, I was shocked to see that many are not, for all kinds of reasons (archive link to the Daily Mail so you don’t have to give them money):
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:09 AM on December 8, 2022

I feel your pain. My old boss shared a tip for processing large numbers of scripts [so not directly applicable here, more for early level service courses]: Do a first pass triage glance to bin the scripts into great, good, oke, margin, oof. Then mark equivalent scripts in the same session. Makes it less roller-coaster; reducing stress.
Nthing dismas above about marking each question together. Can facilitate this by insisting each Q is answered in a separate exam book.
Another thing [again maybe harder for right/wrong things like math] is not to nit-pick on the marks but get the final mark into the right degree class. Matter a damn whether it is 47% or 45% the grade with be 40-50; that could speed the plough through to the next tea-break
Maybe mark first thing in the morning when you have more spoons.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:12 AM on December 8, 2022

It sounds like the course curriculum and structure are well established as is its place in the overall program? So it's unlikely a problem within those areas. And you are a seasoned educator so it is unlikely a problem with anything you're doing/not doing in a general sense. Don't second guess yourself.

And it's maths - the appropriate methods and responses to problems are clearly defined. The way to get good at maths is making sure you understand a concept and then to spend adequate time solving problems. So none of the people getting low grades will be surprised by their grades. They have sat in classes not understanding the problems and methods, they have not been able to solve them during practice or they have not practiced. They sat in the exam providing answers they knew to be inappropriate or incomplete. The low marks are not telling them anything they don't know or at least they shouldn't.

Even if somebody (who would normally ace the exam) had a really bad day, they still walked out of the exam knowing it was bad. I always knew when I had failed an exam. I held out hope in case results moderation helped me out but the hope was slim.

It's ok to remind yourself of that as you go.

It has been pointed out that this particular cohort had fairly unique challenges. They really are lacking more foundation and learning skills than the average. They still shouldn't pass a class when they clearly haven't absorbed the material enough to build on it next term. That's in nobody's interest. And the effects of global pandemics on learning are also not something you had control over. So remind yourself of that as well and be kind to yourself here.

You are treating your students with respect and consideration, even if the pass rate this year is abysmal. Try to analyse the results and root causes. Even though this course and material are probably well established, what has worked in the past is apparently not working for this cohort at this time.

It may be necessary to offer more or different support to help fill learning gaps for example or delays in developing learning skills because people were sat at home on zoom. These are concrete problems students can get support with and your institution probably already has related support you can point them to. And at the end of the day, that is all you can do. They have to go and avail themselves of that support. They are young adults and you cant' do it for them.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:09 AM on December 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

The best professor I ever had let us bring 1 standard-sized page of our own notes to exams. Then, after he handed the exams back, we had the option to self-correct our work and turn back in our corrected exams within a week for up to half our missed points back, e.g., if you got 70% on the in-class exam, spent the week correcting every answer to 100%, you'd get an 85%. (We had to show our work not just write the final answer.)

Even though on the surface it appears that he was making things too easy for us by letting us bring a page of notes to the exam and then letting us correct our exams for partial credit, his process basically tricked us into going over the material three times instead of once, so we'd actually learn most of it.

This was in economics, so while not pure math it was still a quantitative subject and thus this approach should work in math classes too.

So, perhaps consider allowing students to correct their work and resubmit to get some of their missed points back. That is much closer to the real world anyway as most jobs you get feedback and then revise your work, you don't just send a rough draft to the customer as the final product.

For future exams I strongly encourage you to switch to having your students make their own page of notes instead of you providing formula sheets. The process of distilling a huge chunk of material down to just the most essential bits that can fit on a single piece of paper is great for actually learning the material. I'd spend a bunch of time making the perfect page of notes that I knew could deduce everything else from, then while taking the exam I'd find that I hardly ever need to actually look at my page. The "make a page of notes" process was so effective that I adopted it as a study technique for no-notes exams in other classes.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:04 AM on December 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies, everybody. I've marked one 'best answer' (thanks amtho) because it framed things in a way that I hadn't really thought of before.

I already do blinded marking (so that I don't see the name of the student whose exam I'm marking) and mark all of problem 1, then all of problem 2, etc. I use a pre-set breakdown of points for the parts of each problem. I also go through all the exams and mark, then go back through all the exams and score, so that I can assign points consistently across the entire class (this is time-consuming, but worth it for a relatively small class). I've already talked about the issues with colleagues, but good suggestion bluedaisy et al. to do this some more.

Since the start of the course I have been very explicit (verbally and in writing) about the fact that the most effective way for students to learn the material is through working the homework problems. About half of the lecture hours already consist of me talking through the thought process of solving example problems while demonstrating the techniques live on the chalkboard. Students have had access to twice-a-week office hours with me and a five-days-a-week drop-in tutorial centre run by TAs for the entire semester. No memorization is required (which is why I provide all the formulas and instead test on conceptual understanding as demonstrated through application of the techniques).

I don't teach math; we're using the vector calculus as a tool.
posted by heatherlogan at 2:51 PM on December 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

From that response I'd say it's quite clear that you're amazing and already doing everything right.

This is a mentally and emotionally tough time for everyone right now, and you can't fix that for everyone or even shut yourself off so you don't notice it. It's just rough. I truly hope you find a way to distance yourself from this emotionally.

First responders have a similar (though obviously more serious) issue. They didn't cause the problem and in fact they worked hard to fix it, but sometimes people don't make it. I think this analogy is too awkward to continue, but my point is to find the empathy you'd have for them and try to give it to yourself.
posted by Acari at 12:11 PM on December 9, 2022

Best answer: As someone has taught introductory-based physics courses (so a year prior to what you are describing) before, during, and now after the pandemic, I completely understand what you are describing. I don't have any advice, except to say that, maybe, it does get better. I have two different sections of students this semester: one of which is an off-semester (not in the standard timeline for such a course) second-semester course and one is a standard first-semester course. The former has had many of the same issues you describe, which I have seen myself for the past few years. But the latter has looked more like courses prior to the pandemic.

I've found that my standards dropped a bit in the pandemic and its aftermath, and that, by necessity, I gave students more tries at the material (e.g., re-works on bad tests). Certainly more students are getting through without the level of understanding I saw five years ago. But this semester I think I see a glimpse of a turnaround.
posted by pjenks at 3:17 PM on December 9, 2022

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