“Even before COVID-19 disrupted classrooms, there were signs of trouble.”
We covered the story of Professor Maitland Jones a couple of weeks ago.
He recently wrote at the Boston Globe:
I was fired from NYU after students complained that the class was too hard. Who’s next?
Organic chemistry is a difficult and important course, a rite of passage for future medical doctors, scientists, and many engineers, professions that require the ability to reason well from a set of new data. No longer is “orgo” a memorization course — those of us who teach it aim to produce critical thinkers, future diagnosticians, and scientists.
Neither of the traditional participants in the course, the students and teachers, are doing well. Many students seem increasingly unwilling to put in the necessary effort to master the material, and teachers are burning out at a rapid rate.
Even before COVID-19 disrupted classrooms, there were signs of trouble. I came to New York University in 2007 after 43 years of teaching and research at Princeton, where I had both tenure and an endowed chair. I wanted to see if the technique I had introduced at Princeton, in which the talking-head lecture was deemphasized in favor of small-group problem solving, was transferable to another university.
All went well at first as students prospered in the problem-solving setting and younger faculty began to adopt it. But about 10 years ago, I noticed that students were increasingly misreading exam questions. My careful attention to the wording of problems did not help much. Exam scores began to decline, as did attendance in the traditional large lecture section of the course Then COVID hit.
Coteaching with two excellent professors, Paramjit Arora and Keith Woerpel, I commissioned and paid for a series of 52 videos to substitute for canceled in-person lectures. Students rarely watched them. They performed abysmally on exams that would have seemed too easy only a few years ago. A few did attend the zoomed office hours, but they were the best students in the class, not the ones who needed help.
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