Study Guides in High School...

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by TrademarkTer, Aug 18, 2018.

  1. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    Aug 18, 2018

    I teach mostly juniors and seniors (precalc and calc). In my school we give out tests and quizzes that are common assessments.

    I believe that by the time they are juniors and seniors in high school, students should learn how to study using their class notes, textbooks, and other practice materials provided throughout the unit. After all, they will be in college very soon. As such, I don't believe in providing study guides for assessments. Obviously I tell students how to prepare, and give them practice materials throughout the unit, but I don't neatly package it for them to memorize at the end of the unit.

    All of the other precalc teachers are on the same page as me so none of the pre-calc kids get study guides. On the other hand, there are two calc teachers who are both on the older side, and they give out study guides before every single test and quiz, which are basically just the test or quiz with different numbers.. They just want everyone to do well, and want to minimize the parent emails and extra help they need to be giving. I gave study guides back when I taught algebra courses because those kids are still young and can't be expected to necessarily study properly on their own, but I think it is babying them as seniors, particularly since none of them were given study guides as juniors so it's basically a step backwards for them.

    What's your take on study guides for these grade levels? Since we give the same assessments, I do sort of feel like I am disadvantaging my students grade-wise by not giving them the study guides that the other two teachers do, but on the flip side, I feel it will benefit them in the long-run as they won't be receiving these guides in college.
     
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  3. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    You might be overestimating how hard college is these days. My example is in another subject, but it was quite disturbing. My step-daughter was an honor graduate from high school and is doing well in college, but I worry about the rigor of the curriculum.

    Recently, we had a family beach day when she was here visiting (she lives with her mom) and had a conversation in the shade while having lunch. I don’t remember how the conversation got to the topics of socialism and communism, but I was shocked that my SD did not know what the words meant. To make this even more appalling, she was finishing up her world history class at the time.

    She got an A.
     
  4. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    I don't think so. I'm sure there are easy majors/easy courses (hence why there are so many psych and history majors!!), but the math courses at our state university (where I went, and where a fair number of our graduates will go) are extremely challenging. Most of them won't' be going super deep into math, but even if they have to take a year or two of calc in college for business, it will be a jump. They will likely have a professor who speaks poor English, and their grade will be determined strictly on 3 exam scores. They will not be given much in terms of review material for these exams, unless their professor is super generous, which I know mine were not. I was actually a grader for a calc 2 class in college, and it was not unusual for classes to have exam averages 50% or lower, and 60% of the class receiving Cs or lower for their course grades. This is compared to high school where 80% of the kids receive As or Bs.
     
  5. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    My tests/Quizzes are just the review questions from the text book so no, no study guides. If they can't handle that I highly doubt they're going to put effort into using a study guide. I can say though I feel that by the jr/Sr year they should be able to manage on their own.
     
  6. TrademarkTer

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    I don't love that either if I'm being totally honest---I like the idea of putting a question or two from the text in to see that they are using it as a study too, but this has the same issue I was worried about with study guides in that they can just memorize the answers to the book review and not have to put much thought into it.
     
  7. Aces

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    I don't have that issue. My quizzes/tests are straight out of the book. They get to take the quiz/test home and turn it in on Monday. I don't teach for the test but according to the powers that be I have to have tests/Quizzes.

    ...and would you believe I still have people who fail?
     
  8. JimG

    JimG Comrade

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    Just about every textbook has some sort of summary review at the end of each chapter which is no different than a study guide. I say you are fine either way so long as every teacher of the common course at your school is consistent.
     
  9. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Yes, there are always students who are years behind in reading and reading comprehension which means the text is next to useless to them. I've heard this same complaint about students failing open book/ open note tests in class. If you can't read it, you can't use it. Not all students who are far behind in reading or struggle with comprehension have IEPs or 504s for accommodations.

    Then there are kids who just don't care.
     
  10. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    Yup, on both accounts. I've ran into both but the just don't care outweigh.
     
  11. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    I don’t give out study guides for any of my students. They have to do the work themselves. I do, however, give them practice quizzes and practice tests that are similar in scope to the real thing like my professors did in college.
     
  12. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I do study guides/help early on and then gradually stop providing as much structure. A lot of my students have no clue how to study or prepare for a test. They also really struggle with any sort of timed writing.
    I teach English so it's different. My tests are essay tests. The first test I usually give them the prompt and let them make an outline ahead of time. The second test I let them bring in a few notes but they don't know the prompt. Depending on that, I then go to nothing at all by our third big test. They really panic about only having one period to write a whole essay and need to learn to budget their time accordingly, so it's something we work on a lot.

    If they have already have access to a good review in their books, I wouldn't do a separate study guide too. However, I do think it's hard to have two other teachers giving the same assessments but with more help. It would be nice to have consistency within the department.
     
  13. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    I never got practice tests or quizzes in college, except for with one professor. Basically what you are giving I would consider to be what I am referring to as a study guide. Students will use the practice test or quiz as their crutch.
     
  14. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    When I receive students who are behind from public or private schools, I first let them know that I will do my best to fill in their knowledge gaps and that I will have the same expectations for them as any other student despite those gaps. Then, I make them come to my workshop hours 2-3 times a week during lunch or after school and they are required to come with questions. We go over the homework in these sessions and I teach them concepts they should have already mastered. Another thing I do is show them statistics of their earning potential if they have certain degrees and how useful knowing math is in the global job market. I have found that money is an external motivating factor for students who don’t care for academics.
     
  15. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    No, a study guide is a list of concepts that they need to study to know for their tests. Many colleges and universities give practice assessments — it is a very common practice and many students graduate and go on to become leaders in their fields. They are certainly not a crutch and my students perform very well academically in and outside of my school.
     
  16. TrademarkTer

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    If a study guide is just a list of concepts, then I support that and oppose what you are doing as students use theses practice tests like they are the Bible. I guess it's different conceptions of what a study guide is.

    Published. English. definition. A student tool used to help facilitate learning and comprehension of literature, research topics, history, and other subjects.
     
  17. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    I find that with how my classes are set up I generally I don't have the issue of having to address students individually. My classes are designed to make students pass, all they have to do is put in just a little effort. So I've found that students fail because they simply can't be bothered. For instance not taking homework on Tuesday which should be completed by Monday. I do however make it publicly known I'm always at school 2-3hrs after school Mon-Thurs, usually in the auditorium to come find me if they feel they need extra help. I'm very your success belongs to you.
     
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  18. futuremathsprof

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    My professors said that the students already have their study guides — their class notes. Everything covered on the class lecture slides was fair game and you could be tested on it.

    Using your exact same definition, you forgot the last part from Google:

    “Most study guides summarize chapters of novels or the important elements of the subject.”

    This is their class notes and I tell all my students that the practice tests are NOT comprehensive and indicative of the types of questions they *may* see and are more of a supplement to the class notes than anything.

    Again, my students are incredibly successful and go on to work in some of the best companies in the USA and do very well at the most selective colleges (Cornell, West Point, USAFA, UCLA, MIT, etc), so I’ll stick with what I’m doing. ;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  19. TrademarkTer

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    I agree that the notes should be their source of review.

    When I used to teach algebra 2 and gave out study guides (AKA practice tests AKA unit reviews), I would always get the question "if I can do everything on the study guide, am I going to do well on the test?" This drove me crazy, and is another reason I don't like them. If something showed up on a test that was not on the study guide, they'd always ask why that was there but not on the review.

    Again, my students are incredibly successful and go on to work in some of the best companies in the USA and do very well at the most selective colleges (Cornell, West Point, USAFA, UPenn MIT, etc), so I’ll stick with what I’m doing.;) [just had to change UCLA]
     
  20. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    This is why I include a note at the top of the practice test/quiz stating what I said in my previous post about it not being comprehensive and only includes some of the concepts that will be tested on. That works for me and my students understand it easily enough.
     
  21. 2ndTimeAround

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    I have three degrees and am working on my fourth. I have never once had a practice assessment. Maybe that is because my degrees aren't in education?
     
  22. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Back in the stone age, professors would sometimes have old tests in the library for reference. It was professors from a range of different disciplines. The closest to a study guide was a list of topics that would be found on the test which was basically class notes plus additional topics from the text book or the professor created "text book".
     
  23. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    What are your degrees in?

    Do you know how statistics work? Your personal experience does not speak to the majority.

    The California CTC, for example, gives a practice for most of its teaching certification exams. As do many testing agencies. I find it strange that people are mystified by this.
     
  24. TrademarkTer

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    Let's just say, for argument's sake, that 70% of all college professors gave practice exams (this is a HUGE overestimate, and I'm sure it is no where near this high). Wouldn't it be better to make sure we prepare the students for the 30% of professors who don't give practice exams for their experience? And then they be over-prepared for the other 70% when they give these practice exams in college.
     
  25. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    I think it depends on the subject matter being taught as not all classes require the same type of testing preparation. If it’s a PE or art or English class, probably or definitely not. If it’s a class on something very technical like C++ programming, physical chemistry, or thermodynamics, then a practice test is certainly warranted. I would venture to say it’s even necessary because students need to see how the professor formats their tests, how many questions they give on average, the style of problems to be asked, etc, even if the students are not tested on those things.

    To further demonstrate, I had an advanced organic chemistry class in college where the professor used this weird table (it’s difficult to describe) that he specifically made for his exams — it wasn’t included in the book or class notes. The professor would even say “familiarize yourself with this table because you will have extreme difficulty doing the mass spectroscopy/IR/NMR problem otherwise.” He did this because the majority of students couldn’t make head or tails of his chart when he started teaching as they were not acclimated to his tests. This goes to show knowing the format of the test matters.

    Again, there are practice tests for the SAT, Law School Admission Test, Medical School Admission Test, and many other thousands of exams. They are needed and students find them very useful.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2018
  26. Ms.Holyoke

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    I attended a very competitive high school and we received study guides for all of our mid year and final exams because it covered so much content. The study guides were very similar to the exam,, so it might not have been the best way to do it. I think study guides are fine as long as the kids do not know exactly what topics will be on the test. Some kids need help figuring out how study and a study guide is a good way to do it.

    I spent two hours making a fill in the blank study guide for my kids as a student teacher AND offered 10 extra credit points on their test if it was completed. I had three kids complete their study guide. :(
     
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  27. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Totally agree. It’s not meant to let students know exactly what they are being tested on. It should give them a general idea so they can better prepare. It shouldn’t just be, “Look at your class notes and good luck studying.”
     
  28. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    No, no. no. You're missing the point. I'm not debating whether or not a college professor should give a practice exam. I am saying---given the reality that there is at least some percentage of college professors who do not give these out, students should be ready for that reality.
     
  29. futuremathsprof

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    I’m not saying they should not be prepared either way, but that still doesn’t mean we should do away with practice tests for the “30%” of professor’s that don’t use them. They’re still mightily useful.
     
  30. Mr.history

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    I taught AP US History for a few years. I still gave the students study guides but I'm not sure my idea of a study guide is what you guys are debating. Giving the students the exact questions off the test wasn't going to happen but giving the students a list of things to focus on helped them a lot.

    My tests also were not purely recall. Even if I told the students every topic on the test, the still had to have a deep understanding of the material to be able to get the questions correctly.
     
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  31. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    My main complaint is against the idea that providing a study guide (I don’t give these out) or practice assessment (I do give these out) does not help students, but makes them rely on a crutch. No, it just ensures that they don’t have to read over every bit of minutia learned throughout an entire course and are able to focus on the main things being tested.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
  32. 2ndTimeAround

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    Well, aren't you just a ray of sunshine!

    My degrees are all in science - different disciplines. Not going to share too much personal data here. So yeah, I do know how statistics work. I also know how English works. When you say students will get practice tests in college, you say it as though this is common and typical among all professors. I'd think that with all of the courses I've taken, at the different colleges I attended, I would have experienced such a thing if it was the norm. I was sharing my personal experience to show that it is NOT the norm.
     
  33. Joyful!

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    Not a study guide giver.
    My texts all give an objective for each lesson as well as a chapter review. Those tools can guide a student to determine what the aims of the course might be. I'm sure there are people who have a different experience but my grad and undergrad work did not include study guides, nor tips for possible test questions. I made my own study guides and my own tests to help me prepare for exams. It worked well for me.
    Study guides from the teacher are more suited to upper elementary, in my opinion, to teach students how to isolate what is important. After that, students should have been trained to identify that themselves. Students asked me for study directions today. They want to know how much they need to study. The answer to that is all of it. I am not interested in making good testers as much as I am interested in cultivating high level thinkers and solid learning.
     
  34. futuremathsprof

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    There are many parts that I find agreeable with this post, but I disagree on others.

    Take my Calc 3 (Multivariable and Vector Calculus) class, for example. It is the now the most difficult class offered at my private school and I have a reputation for giving notoriously difficult tests. With that said, the best of the best are in that class (valedictorian, salutatorian, top 10%, etc.) and these are some of the best students I’ve taught at the high school level in all of my years teaching. Even in spite of their academic prowess, many of them are already stressing about the extreme rigor of my class, even though it’s only been the first week of class.

    Now, I’m still going to have weekly review sessions and provide practice assessments before each formal assessment because of the depth of the material being covered and the sheer number of formulae students are required to know (I make students keep an ever-growing book of formulae and they are required to add to it progressively throughout the course and to include examples for how each is applied in a variety of circumstances). I do this because I don’t allow formula sheets to be used on exams and I don’t permit open-note or open-book tests either. I even restrict calculator use on half of each test.

    But at the same time, I don’t just say, “Okay now, just study your notes” like some teachers do who think they are being helpful (they’re not), when it’s just them being lazy, IMO. Think of it this way: imagine I hand you an encyclopedia set and said, “Okay, you’ll be tested on this. Good luck.” Wouldn’t you be frustrated? Now, if instead I said you can expect to maybe be tested on how to calculate the volume of a paraboloid, how to compute line integrals over some region, how to draw level curves to compute triple integrals, how to use Stokes’ Theorem, to use the Jacobian, how to the find the volume of a parallelepiped using cross products in R^3, how to find moments and total masses to find the centroids for substances of uniform and non-uniform densities, etc., then you could focus your efforts much better. NOTE: This would not be in written form, but in the form of a practice test that gives certain kinds of problems that cover multiple definitions, postulates, and theorems learned. The problems on the actual test may include a handful of those things, but at least students aren’t blind sighted by what they encounter and can prepare in advance.

    My track record speaks for itself as my students do better than their peers who are taught by the other math teachers at my private school that refuse to give them practice assessments. And not just on exams administered by us teachers, but state and AP tests. There is a statistically significant difference between how well my math students perform and the students from other teachers, with the former coming out ahead, and that says something because we have immensely high test scores school wide to begin with.

    For instance, my students routinely have “math battles” with students from other math classes — I came up with the idea for when they review for tests and finals — and they are able to arrive at the solution to problems I and other teachers propose much more expeditiously, efficiently, and with greater formality. That shows my methods work and are, more importantly, effective.

    In conclusion, I give students a *general* idea of what they can expect to know because upper-tier math and sciences courses are an entirely different ball game than other subject matters. Math is the most rigorous and demanding of all intellectual pursuits and so I take that into account when I test my students and prepare them for said tests.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2018
  35. TrademarkTer

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    So I think the biggest challenge you'll face if you become a VP, as you mentioned you planned to do, is giving your teachers credit for the success of their students, and not just attributing it to what a wonderful VP you are.
     
  36. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Why wouldn’t I give credit to the teachers if they did all the work? That would be dishonest and a slap in the face to those teachers, who are also my friends. I can’t claim credit for something I didn’t do. I would only highlight the school’s student successes to prospective families, but I would not attribute any of those to myself.
     
  37. TrademarkTer

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    You just wrote a long post, of which the main point was how awesome you are compared to your lazy colleagues.
     
  38. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    I am by no means awesome, but I sure as heck get the job done. Compared to my math colleagues, I put in a lot more work for my review sessions, practice assessments, and activity preparation and *that* is why I have better results, not because of my being more “awesome.” They do a great amount of work, too, but not nearly as much as I do, as I work with them and frequently have department meetings. When I hear a teacher say, “I don’t give practice tests or give any pointers,” to me, that translates to “I can’t be bothered to make one or do anything outside of the bare minimum.” Hence, laziness.
     
  39. TrademarkTer

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    LOL---your department meeting where Mr. J goes "I don't give pointers!"

    And just because someone doesn't give a practice test, it's awfully bold of you to assume they don't do anything outside the bare minimum. Thank the good Lord you won't be evaluating teachers on my side of the country any time soon!
     
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  40. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Aficionado

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    Well, when I observe the teacher or discuss their lesson plans and all I see is them instructing and wishing students luck on exams, what am I supposed to think? You tell me how wishing the students luck, doing little to no review or extension activities is *not* the minimum?
     
  41. TrademarkTer

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    You changed the goal post on me----first it was practice tests. Now you are talking review and activities. That said, I think a teacher can do a fabulous job teaching and checking for understanding along the way so that there is no need for extensive review and activities at the end of the unit. The "bare minimum" would be what my HS AP Calc teacher did----write book problems on the board for us to figure out in groups, and then go to the back of the room and focus on his role responsibilities as head football coach. Some of the best teachers I've ever had taught with just a chalkboard and nothing else---no technology, no handouts, no activities, but my interest was held by their enthusiasm for the subject and their crystal clear explanations, and I was able to perform well on their assessments
     

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