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An Instructor’s Story About Students’ Life Stories

Published: 3 June 2014
Abstract: This is a narrative —a part of my life story —about the use of student journals as a vehicle for teaching and learning in the course on “ Human Behavior and the Social Environment’’ (HBSE). Over many years of teaching the first-year graduate HBSE course I hadrelied at different times on three traditional modes of evaluating student progress: mid/term and final papers, later replacing them with objective tests that were themselves replaced by take-home examinations. I came to realize that papers and objective tests are poor evaluative instruments. More important, I found that their con­ tributions to student learning were limited. Papers had the effect of restricting student reading to a particular topic at the expense of integrating the rest of the course content. Objective tests did en­ courage student coverage of assigned readings but also encouraged rote learning, thereby stifling creativity and critical thinking. The tests were easy to grade and seemed to assure objectivity and relia­ bility in grading. However, they required relinquishing one class time at midterm and one at term’s end, a serious disadvantage in the face of so much material to cover.
Keywords: Stories / Behavior / student / grading / teaching / HBSE / replaced / readings / course / objective tests

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