The Dark Side of Dual Enrollment

Different students learn in different ways—we know that. Students know that too.

A precalculus student I talked to on a recent afternoon failed the class last fall and was on her way to failing it again this spring. Sadly, she will probably fail the class in the fall, too. Despite all the class aids (and there were many), she had not reacted to her consistently low exam scores until I spoke to her after class.

Her science major requires that she complete Calculus 1 and possibly Calculus 2. Her mathematics SAT score was 380.

We talked a little bit about the class, her performance, and where she should go next. The student explained that my class is not compatible with her “learning method.” She said that she prefers “that multiplying method, you know, where there are letters, A, B, C.”

I said, “You mean, multiple choice?”

“Yes, that’s the one,” she said. “That’s the method where I learn best. I’m good at figuring out which letters aren’t the right ones.”

She said she was good at multiple choice because she has learned to eliminate wrong answers and get the choices down to one or two and then make a good guess. She has transferred into Sam Houston State University with 65 credit hours (two years!) of “college” classes, all earned at a nearby community college. With possibly one exception (part of a math class), all her community-college classes used multiple choice. She said she didn’t learn well with my “method.”

I gently explained that “my” method—where students have to work out the answers themselves—will now be the norm.  I don’t think she believed me.

Those of us committed to higher education claim that college teaches students to think critically and to solve problems. Yet recent studies (see, for example, this one) suggest we are failing at that task. <Read more.>

Via Ken Smith and Diana Nixon, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.