Letting Students Leave Discussion

By Laura Zirbel

Summer session is challenging here at UCSB. Students take summer classes for one of two reasons:

  • They are responsible and are foregoing the beach and video games to get ahead in their studies, or
  • They failed the class, and need to make it up.

This creates a problematic situation. Part of the class is really ahead, and part of the class is holding on for dear life. In the past, I taught to the middle. This was still too slow for some and too fast for others. This summer I did something in discussion section I’ve never done before.

“If you don’t need help with homework 2 or 3, feel free to leave.”

The response was very positive. Students who didn’t need help would leave after the quiz. The remaining students had committed to being there. They asked and answered more questions, and seemed less timid about asking “stupid questions.”

I have a worry about this. There were at least 2 students who needed to stay. From their quizzes, I could tell they had fundamental misconceptions. Yet they left. I wasn’t going to call them out. So the question I have is this: do the benefits outweigh the cost to these two students. Should they be allowed to hang themselves?

Has anyone else done this?

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