Letter to the editor

I totally agree with Michael P. Jansen and have shared “Crossing the Rubicon” — December 2016 and January 2017 issue, Chem 13 News — with my students so they can gain his perspective. I use a similar concept, with a twist. I want my students to learn the value of physically rewriting their notes in a limited area, which I learned in college as an undergraduate. However, I want to get additional mileage whenever possible.

Homework does not count for much in the actual grade, but getting the practice in problem-solving is critical. I do not give a lot of homework, but what I select is important to be attempted. It is far better to discover what they misunderstand by making mistakes in the homework rather than doing so on quizzes or tests. I have therefore found a mechanism that seems to work very well for most of my students. (There are some who seem to not take education seriously, so they skew the results of any effort.)

Students must earn the right to use an index card of notes on the unit tests. (All quizzes are unannounced but open-note.

They will receive an index card as long as they do not ‘strike out’ during the unit. That is, they did not miss more than two assignments. They find that they want to be able to get the index card of notes, so they do the assignments. It’s a win-win situation.

Over the years, students have repeatedly commented that they found that they didn’t have to look at the index card while taking the test. I point out that it shows just how valuable creating the card proved to be. Recopying their notes in an organized manner in a limited space organizes the concepts in their mind.