Dominique G. Homberger won't apologize for setting high expectations for her students. The biology professor at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge gives brief quizzes at the beginning of every class, to assure attendance and to make sure students are doing the reading. On her tests, she doesn't use a curve, as she believes that students must achieve mastery of the subject matter, not just achieve more mastery than the worst students in the course. For multiple choice questions, she gives 10 possible answers, not the expected 4, as she doesn't want students to get very far with guessing.Sounds like a wuss, to me. I had a tough professor. When I signed up for Accounting 101 at LSU, the prof gave us a sheet that told us what books to buy, read the first four chapters, complete the workbook assignments, and be prepared for a test during the first class period. That's academic rigor.
"I believe in these students. They are capable," she said. And given that LSU boasts of being the state flagship, she said, she should hold students to high standards. Many of these students are in their first year, and are taking their first college-level science course, so there is an adjustment for them to make, Homberger said. But that doesn't mean professors should lower standards.She was teaching microbiology for non-science majors. She expected great things from her students.
Some college classes are crucibles. Every discipline has those classes. They're designed to weed-out those students who might be unsuited for a particular field of study. My professors, indeed, my deans, thought that student academic complaints were amusing. A student either did the work or passed away into that long list of students who didn't make the grade.
If the students in Ms. Homberger's class have learned anything, it's that complaints count for more than academic rigor. That's precisely the wrong lesson to glean from a college university.