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Davis, California

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Students get the grade without the effort

We all have those friends who flaunt their “free time” at us, claiming they never go to class and still manage to maintain a competitive grade-point average. As you examine the dent in your nose from falling asleep on your textbook, that soon-to-be-enemy-of-a-friend thumbs his or her perfectly undented nose right back.

It is quite the mystery how these oversleeping, bright-faced know-it-alls successfully complete college by attending a fraction of their lectures.

What’s most surprising about these students is that they are not at all shy about admitting their tricks of this special academic trade.

“I have literally only gone to [Nutrition 10 once] before the midterm. I got an A. Not only do they tell you everything on the exam, but they also don’t change tests year to year and section to section. Teachers don’t really teach you. They put everything on a PowerPoint,” said Antonia McKee, a sophomore sociology major.

Maureen Clemons, a sophomore human development major, noted that her method is a selective one, where she will only attend lecture if the professor does not have sufficient slides or if a participation grade is involved.

“Many people have realized that you can review certain professors’ material post-lecture, and therefore refrain from attending lecture altogether. There are the rare cases, though, where the professor simply speaks from his own notes the entire time or grades participation. I will attend in such instances,” Clemons said.

Those who are simply content with practicing diligent study habits – attending class, doing the reading, visiting office hours – find issues with their peers’ techniques.

“I just don’t get it! He’s an honors student and yet he goes out on the weekends, has a good time, and still gets good grades. Wow, how is that possible?” said Aarti Sharma, a sophomore mathematics major, in regards to another student.

Some teachers support, but maybe don’t condone, the type of student who can skip class and keep up.

“I don’t think it’s easy to get a good grade without attending class but those data are hard to come by. I am completely OK with anyone who can get a good grade without attending class,” said Sharon Strauss, an evolution and ecology professor, in an e-mail interview.

Her opinion may be in the minority, as some professors make it a point to conduct lecture such that participation is necessary, not optional.

“Most students attend regularly because I emphasize at the beginning of the quarter that they will need to in order to succeed in the class. It is absolutely not possible to get a good grade in my class without attending lecture,” said Seeta Chaganti, associate English professor, in an e-mail interview.

Distinguished statistics professor George Roussas maintained that the student-teacher relationship offers intellectual benefits otherwise forfeited by those who do not frequently attend both lecture and discussion sections.

“It takes interaction with the instructor to explain the fine points; a student may have great difficulty in doing it alone. Furthermore, discussing exam questions requires thinking, which students regularly attending classes acquire. The same may not be argued for not regularly attending students,” said Roussas in an e-mail interview.

Hannah Kearney, a first-year materials science and engineering major, found this to be true when her roommate, after not attending her Spanish class since the first week of school, fell behind and missed assignments only presented in class.

Kearney expressed concern when she noticed her roommate was in their room from noon to 6 p.m. instead of attending scheduled lectures.

“I was baffled. And it’s not like you can get away with not attending those classes. She is graded on participation and has in more than one instance not known about certain homeworks,” Kearney said.

All three professors have found that more students are present on days of examination than on any other day of class.

“I guess it’s inevitable, but there are generally no more than one or two students (out of classes of 70-120) whom I haven’t seen all quarter and only see at the final,” Chaganti said.

Strauss claims that if the class is scheduled early (before 9 a.m.), many students fail to attend. When thinking about how to remedy this problem, she said there isn’t a perfect solution.

“In an anonymous survey, I would have to ask students to report accurately both their class attendance and their expected grade,” Strauss said. “Perhaps classes with clicker questions could evaluate this relationship; however, classes with clicker questions tend to have better attendance, so they would be a biased sample.”

CHELSEA MEHRA can be reached at features@theaggie.org. 

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