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Next time I’ll brush them longer

4 October 2013
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I love the analogy of brushing one’s teeth to preparing for an exam. One thing I try to do is enlist my students helping develop the exam as we go through the semester. My exams are half identification terms and half essay. At least once every two weeks, I’ll ask the students to quickly look through their notes (both reading and lecture notes) for potential ID terms and we write lists on the board (and I cross out things that are unlikely). My hope is that by bringing up the exam at regular intervals that they’re not going to simply wait until the night before and engage in binge studying.

Memoirs of a SLACer

After a recent exam in which many of my students failed, I asked them to write a brief statement reflecting on what they could do differently before the next exam. The most common response by far was that they would study longer before the next exam. I don’t want to discourage students from studying, but I thought that this situation required an addendum to Anti-Procrastination Metaphor #2. As you probably don’t recall, this metaphor involves students brushing their teeth:

Imagine two people visit the dentist for a cleaning and are told to return in six months.  The first person brushes her teeth for two minutes twice a day (four total minutes per day) every day for six months, spending 12 total hours brushing her teeth between dentist appointments.  The second person does not brush her teeth at all for five months and 29 days but spends 12 hours brushing…

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