Ehh, What’s Up, Doc?

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Benjamin Franklin

Scenario seen in real, TV and movie classrooms: Students take test, teacher grades test, hands test back to students with grade and wrong answers marked in red, and teacher moves on to the next topic. This happened to me all the way through being awarded an MS degree, and it may have happened to you!


I appreciate what Ron Brown, Professor of Physics, Emeritus, stated in his response concerning a question about student grades.1

Not long after I got tenure, we had a non-tenure track lecturer that typically taught three sections of the introductory physics classes. He was a very bright guy, very engaging, a very creative teacher and very popular with his students. Nearly everyone in his classes got A’s or B’s when all of the rest of us probably had class GPAs of right about 2.0 in those same classes in which students often struggled. As tenured faculty, we wondered whether he was that popular because he assigned such high grades.

I hate grades! They are not always indicative of the student’s potential, but can be a reflection of the way a subject is taught, the quality of the text book, or some other factors. For example, in my undergraduate studies I took Psychology 101. How was the class taught? Lecture, homework, take test, get test back and move onto next topic. Is there a better way?

His classroom policies included all homework was mandatory, but if you didn’t score well on it, you could resubmit it for more points. His classes were very interactive – with classroom demonstrations, whole-class discussions, etc. On exams, you were allowed to resubmit your tests after getting them back to be regraded to get the points you missed the first time. He handed out the final exam ahead of time so they would have more time to work on it as a take-home test. He seemed to always be available to his students, not just office hours, but always.

I had a few teachers that taught in a similar matter. One I remember was Mr. Jack Bowen. He was one of my math teachers in high school. After a test was graded, we would go over missed questions to figure out why we missed those questions. I learned. What was the result of this way of teaching on me?

So the senior faculty was all concerned about this guy – until we realized his students were working twice as hard as the students in the other sections of the same course! I made the point that the top five student in my second term class were all students from his first term class, by far the most disciplined students I had, they came by with questions, really worked to do well knowing that my classroom policies were not like his, and they had just one chance at the exams.

His classes were not super easy as the question asks about. If anything, he demanded more than anyone from his students – and he got more than anyone from his students. He taught them how to study – and he taught them how to care. (Of course, I don’t think it would be possible to work as hard as he did term after term.) And he quickly got hired away from us – by the San Francisco Exploratorium – before we got a chance to offer a tenure track position. He may have been one of the most creative physics teachers I have seen.

Wow! He taught them how to study. There are some schools that are offering assistance to students on studying and taking exams.2 Note how Dr. Brown concludes his response.

Teachers are allowed to create the classes that they feel will be effective. If that means their classes are highly successful, then they can assign the grades that are appropriate. He was not easy, but his students got very high grades.

That is the type of teacher I would enjoyed learning from. One that did not rely solely on the textbook but made the class enjoyable and challenging to where one learns the subject. To Dr. Brown concerning his statement: “I don’t think it would be possible to work as hard as he did term after term.” My reply: “Ehh, What’s Up, Doc?”


1 Brown, Ron. “Are Teachers Allowed To Make Their Classes Super Easy, To The Point Where A Large Majority Of Students Have An A?” 2022. Quora.

2 “STUDYING FOR AND TAKING EXAMS – Learning Strategies Center”. 2022.

Additional Reading

Daniel. “It’s not you, it’s the way it’s taught.” 2022. Medium.

Martin, Gary. 2022. “‘What’s Up Doc?’ – The Meaning And Origin Of This Phrase”. The Phrase Finder.

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