Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Things Get Crazy

School this semester has been all over the place. My classes are great. I'm really enjoying my biology class because we're covering evolution and all things related. I'm also enjoying my mineralogy class, even if some of the material is not all that interesting (it's hard for me to make it through a chapter about microscopes and various spectroscopic techniques when the reading is quite technical and I don't understand it). Still, I like it and find it fascinating and I've been constantly reminding myself that there's plenty of time to learn and that I'm not required to know everything about minerals this semester.

So, things are going well and my only complaint this semester...okay, it's not the only one, but it's the biggest...is that there's no structure to my schedule. My biology class was going by effortlessly. I read a chapter from a book every couple of days and did some in-lab exercises and answered really easy questions like "Is it okay to omit data from your lab report?" I was beginning to think it would be smooth-sailing this semester. And then BAM! Yesterday, I got two lab reports dumped in my lap - I have an exam on Thursday night and a decent-sized homework assignment due next Monday. All within the next two weeks. It's doable...but I'm a little stressed out.

My geology class is fairly unstructured, too. We've had one homework assignment and almost no assigned reading. I've been reading from the book, anyway, but up until a week ago, I had to guess at which chapters the information we covered in class was found. We have two exams in the class - a midterm and a final. Since we don't have any other tests/quizzes, I don't know what to expect on the midterm, which makes up a lot of the grade. I'm not sure at this point what it is I should know and in what detail I should know it. We've really just skimmed a bunch of topics; spectroscopy, definition of a mineral, symmetry, and what influences mineral formation.

I'm sure I'll survive. If I can make it through the next two weeks without freaking out, I'll be pretty proud of myself!

2 comments:

Jerry D. Harris said...

My geology class is fairly unstructured, too. We've had one homework assignment and almost no assigned reading. I've been reading from the book, anyway, but up until a week ago, I had to guess at which chapters the information we covered in class was found.

That sounds really strange to me -- there's no syllabus with a calendar of topics to be covered on various dates? Isn't that mandatory for all classes at UVM? It certainly is here...and most of us teachers make a point of putting associated readings on said calendar along with the dates and topics. This is the kind of lapse that needs to be put on a course evaluation if you get to do one (though if the prof is tenured, it probably wouldn't do any good anyway...)

Chris Nedin said...

I'm surprised that there is no course outline for your Geology classes. We always used to provide them at the beginning of each semester, along with any assigned reading and notes. Ask your lecturers if you can have a lecture outline to help you prepare.

If you are concerned about the exams, also ask your lecturers about them. Obviously they will not divulge the questions, but they may be able to provide aome information on the style and structure of the exam. For example if they will be providing all essay questions and expecting in-depth answers to issues and topics covered in the lectures, or a longer series of short answer questions on specific topics (e.g. cubic crystals), or a mixture.

At my old uni, all previous exam questions were available from the central library. This provided all the info I mentioned above.

Lecturers have a varierty of views on exams, some consider them the main method of checking if students have taken in what was discussed and will structure the questions to cover the material discussed in lectures, others consider them little more than memory exercises and may introduce questions that test your understanding of the principles you've learned, by providing questions that allow students to go beyond what was discussed in class