My TA recently approached me about students in our class (stats/methods).
TA: I think we need to reassess where our students are.
SK: Oh, really? Why?
TA: Um… well… one just came up to me and asked, “what is this thing – a ‘mean’ – that he keeps talking about?”
SK: Oh! [eyes widened, worried surprise]
TA: Yeah, well, that’s not the problem. I said, “Oh! It’s just another term for the average” and the student replied, “Oh. Okay. How do you calculate that?”
SK: … [speechless]
At this moment I realized that I had assumed much too much. And that a sizable chunk of the class could have no idea what I’m talking about. And that this has been going on for more than a month now. On Tuesday I think I’m going to give a non-graded, evaluative math quiz with basic concepts – just to see where they are. I won’t even ask them to put their names on it. But I worry a bit that this will freak them out and/or seem condescending. But I don’t know how else to see where they all stand. After this, I have a little less faith in the world.