…. I gave the midterm for my Electromagnetism class today. Stayed up until 1:30am putting the finishing touches on it, and then up again four and a half hours later to go in early and get it and its accompanying formula sheet (yeah, yeah, I’m getting soft, I know) photocopied, and ready to give to them at 8:45am in class. They had one hour of furious computing -and a bit of thinking- to do. These ones are hard to get right since you’ve got to gauge their ability to do enough in the short time allowed. Get it wrong (like I did with the equivalent mid term last year) and they just can require way longer to do it than they have time for. It is really important to recall that they are still young and don’t take all the same computational shortcuts that one does later in life. And recall that for upper-level courses I like to have a bit of fun new stuff in there too, so I had to think carefully about how to do that in one hour too. (The plan was to do this all with the aid of the atmostphere at the Cat and Fiddle, like last week’s midterm prep session, but in the end I got sucked in by several incredibly campy Queen videos -how come we never saw that aspect so clearly as kids?- on You Tube…., which made for a background which is more relevant than you think… more on that later.)
So it worked! And they (most of them I think) really liked it (at least a number said so immediately after, and they were all chatting happily about bits and pieces on the exam after they’d done….. which is good)… there did not seem to be that air of them having been treated unfairly that happens when an exam misses the mark. This is easier with 12 students, than say, the 250+ freshmen I (and my colleague) set a midterm for last week. That one went ok, but was actually too easy, and now we have to alert the students to the fact that they should not feel overly confident about how they are doing….
For my E+M midterm today, it was just right, and as a bonus I think they learned something about superconductors and superconducting rotating spheres and the Meissner effect… oh, and why the electron is not a tiny rotating classical spherical shell of charge, which everyone should know, of course. So what’s not to like? (as they say).