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Comments on Avoiding Mediocrity:

Most of us don't want to be considered mediocre students, and like to think that we are doing our very best. But is this always the case? How often do you do an assignment just to get through it? Are you satisfied with doing enough to turn it in, or do you really want to get it right, and know it's right?

Many students seem ready to accept mediocrity in their work. For instance, too many spend the least amount of time possible on their homework and don't seem to have a real concern for understanding the material; rather they seem to want simply to get through it as fast as they can. One indication of this is that when I ask the same question on two different quizzes or exams, some students make the same mistake the second time as they did the first.

If you strive for mediocrity, you are doomed to achieve it.

This means they have not taken time to figure out what they did wrong on the first one and internalize that. That is, they do not have enough curiosity or interest or concern or whatever it takes to go back and rethink their work in order to get it right. This is a shame, as our mistakes are one of the most important learning tools that we have. Too many students seem willing to say "Ok, I missed that one, I'll just let that go."

In their written work, most students don't seem to try to push the material farther than the minimum requirements. It was always a source of pride to me, as a student, to go a little bit beyond what was expected; to push the conclusions a little bit farther; to see what the problem really meant, at least when I could. All too often, however, I get the sense that students only want to get done with their work as quickly as they can.

Perhaps it is an unwillingness to take a risk; after all, saying something extra is a risk, since you could be wrong. But saying something extra, and putting that little extra effort into it, shows that you are at least thinking about the material, and that's good, no matter whether you are completely right or not. What I want to know is that you've actually spent time trying to understand what's going on. Once you leave college, there won't be anyone to help you think through your problems, so you should gain what experience and help you can now, when making mistakes is not a serious problem (indeed, it is what is expected, and is normal).

Mediocre work is not something you can take pride in. Make sure the work you turn in is really of the quality that you want to represent yourself by. If you strive for mediocrity, you are doomed to achieve it. I hope that you are striving for excellence, not mediocrity, in the work that you turn in.

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Created: 29 Aug 2000
Last modified: Sep 4, 2004 10:03:45 AM
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