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What’s the harm in failing to fail?

by Kelly Beischel PhD, RN, CNE My client, Susan, was steaming. And rightly so. Susan’s department director went over her head and told Susan’s failing students that she (the director) would change their course grade if they passed the HESI, a standardized test. True story. I’ve heard this story, or a version of it, more times than I can count. And I too am furious. How have we come to this in higher education? As a society, we have evolved into “trophyizing” (yes, I made that word up) children for simply trying, for showing up, for giving their all. And sometimes they don’t even have to show up or give their all yet still receive a trophy.   Just as distributing trophies to undeserving children, the practice of passing students when their grades suggest otherwise serves no one. It’s unethical in fact. Why? Because it teaches nothing. Except perhaps, “If you whine loudly enough, you can get your way.” The official term for this is “failing to fail.” While Susan’s story may be infuriating, administrators are not alone in the practice of failing to fail. Faculty have cited knowing the student’s name, giving the benefit of the doubt, fearing the student would be held back or removed from their course of […]

Reflection strategies to determine why students scored poorly on their test

By Kelly Beischel PhD, RN, CNE The beauty of fall brings me to tears. The varied hues of reds and oranges mixed with the yellows and greens is like eye candy. Wouldn’t you agree? Yesterday I was driving down a rural highway to my dentist’s office (making appointments and knocking out procrastination :)) while admiring the eye candy around me. My thoughts turned to why leaves change color. And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember why. I will admit that I panicked a bit, wondering if this is a sign that I’m losing my memory. Oh sure, I could Google it. And I did. But, I know I previously learned this material. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever forgotten a lesson that you’re sure you learned in grade school, high school, or even college? And have you felt like “I should know this?” This happens to our students too, right? Playing the ‘Should’ Game In fact, when students fail to score well on a test the default thinking I hear from many professors is, “I ‘covered’ the material. They should know it.”  Yes? or Yes? Or “I taught them how to __________ (fill in the blank with a skill). They should be competent.” Yes, these statements […]

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