The student asked questions. Lots of questions. Even the simplest topics caused her problems. She was not “getting it”. The questions continued for the entire term. I was quite frustrated. There was a curriculum to be covered, and this was slowing me down. The lectures dragged and lost continuity. Other students began to roll their eyes.
I was relieved when the course ended, and, since she found it difficult, I think she was relieved as well. There was a followup course that I was slated to teach in the second term, but it was not required for her degree. I imagined that she would be happy that she didn’t need to take it.
You know where this is going, don’t you? She took the followup course.
When I walked in to the classroom on the first day, there she was again. I got through the first lecture, handed out the first assignment, and began to worry about the pending onslaught of questions.
I arrived early for the next lecture. She was there, discussing something with two other students, apparently seeking help. But as I watched, it became clear that she was not seeking help—she was doing the helping.
This continued for the rest of the course. She became the go-to person for those who were having difficulty.
My initial judgment of this student’s abilities was way off the mark. And for me it raised doubts about how I assessed all of my students.
I don’t like the high stakes nature of final exams and I think they often provide an inaccurate measure of a student’s learning. But, for this particular student, the exams and tests were more reliable than my in-class observations. In this case, classroom activity was not a valid indicator of the student’s progress.
When there is a discrepancy between how a student performs in class and how a student performs on the tests and exams, what assessment do you trust? Quite a dilemma.