On the High Art of
Getting Grades Without Learning Anything
R. Austin, Ph.D., CTRS, FALS
What follows are some thoughts on recreation therapy for
your review and possible reaction.
1. BRING THE PROFESSOR NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS DEALING WITH
This operation demonstrates fiery interest, and gives the
prof some items to discuss in class. If you can't find clippings dealing with
recreation therapy, just bring in any clippings. Profs think everything deals
with their subject anyway.
2. LOOK ALERT. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PROFESSOR
If you MUST consult your watch, don't stare at it unbelievingly--or
3. MAKE A GREAT SHOW OF TAKING NOTES
The professor will believe you are paying rapt attention.
If used wisely, the gimmick of asking him or her to repeat a particularly significant
statement is a good device. (Don't do this more often than three times per semester.)
4. NOD FREQUENTLY AND MURMUR, "HOW TRUE!"
To you, this seems exaggerated; to the prof, it is quite
5. SIT IN A FRONT CENTER SEAT
(Applies only if you plan to stay awake; if you don't, see
item 8 below.) If you're going to all the trouble of making a good impression,
the prof should get a chance to see your act.
6. LAUGH AT THE PROF'S JOKES
You CAN tell. A clue: If the prof looks up from his or her
notes and smiles expectantly, he or she has just told a joke.
7. ASK FOR OUTSIDE READINGS OR SPECIAL REFERENCES
You don't have to read anything. Just ask.
8. IF YOU SLEEP, ARRANGE TO BE CALLED AT THE END OF THE
It may create an unpleasant impression if the rest of the
class members have left and you sit there alone, dozing.
9. BE SURE THE BOOK YOU READ DURING THE LECTURE LOOKS
LIKE THE TEXTBOOK
If you do math during an RT class, try to match books for
size and color. Hint: use book jackets. They also hide comic books effectively.
10. ASK ONLY QUESTIONS YOU BELIEVE THE PROF CAN ANSWER
This is so obvious it doesn't require any commentary.
11. CALL ATTENTION TO THE PROF'S PUBLICATIONS IN CLASS
This ploy produces an exquisitely pleasant feeling within
the prof, which becomes associated with you. Hint: If you discover your prof
has written a book or article, ask in class if he or she wrote it. Be sure to
express appropriate reverence.
There is some controversy as to whether or not you should
do any work for the course, in addition to the above. Some students feel they
don't have any time left, if they keep alert to all the opportunities for making
a good impression. A few carefully planned research studies on the topic seem
to indicate that occasionally it DOES help to know something. But, of course,
there have not been enough such studies to support the point completely.
Note: Adapted from a brief, sad note written by Ronald L.
Austin of Hanover College, which was adapted from an equally sad note authored
by Robert Tyson of Hunter College.
If you are a professional, do any of these thoughts bring
back memories of your college days? If you are a student, do you ever engage
in the high art of getting grades without learning anything? Let us hear your
All rights reserved.
of Responses to this article
COMMENTS BY READERS:
I love it!
Much of it comes down to passion. If one is passionate about something then the motivation to really learn about it is naturally occuring. The problem is that many people do not know what they are truly passionate about so they just pick something. Which inturn leads to not wanting to learn but only wanting to get exemplary grades and acheive, and we all know that it is relatively simple to do so. «Many people do not know what they want Rather they want what they know, and this has been the beginning of many misfortunes» -Breghas Shawn Robinson Salt Lake City , Utah USA University of Utah TR student - Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 11:14:01 (CST), IP Address: 1667016218
Covington, IN USA I forgetMonday, June 14, 2010 at 15:53:25 (EDT), IP Address: 99178224178
This was hilarious, but sad! This is an excellent representation of a big problem with our school system: We are more focused on «getting good grades» than on learning. This is frustrating! I want to LEARN! I'm considering dropping out of college because I am stressed out and frustrated. We need to do something about our problem! Ana Dee USA - Monday, October 15, 2007 at 15:03:35 (CDT), IP Address: 21622923543
Dr Austin! I love this article- its quite short compared to many of the articles i read in your classes! :) Very funny though- just know, that i never did that when you were my professor. Hope your doing well- I'll see you on thursday (march 29 '06) in R379 as a guest lecturer!! :) Jessica
Ahaha! Cool, but it doesnt work...At least not these days...We havta go back to the old fashioned way...GRRRR!!!!!!!!!!
Jessica Herndon jlherndo*indiana.edu
bloomington, indiana USA Indiana University - Tuesday, March 28, 2006 at 20:28:28 (CST)
USA - Friday, July 29, 2005 at 20:51:04 (CDT)
I had a question about point 2. I find that if I stare at the prof, sometimes we get locked into this serious eye contact thing -- like I'm in a tractor beam and he's pulling me in. It can be scary. Probably this is why eye contact is such a big deal among carnivores in the animal kingdom -- they have figured this out already.
Ray Woodcock <ray_woodcock*hotmail.com>
Columbia, MO USA Parks, Recreation & Tourism - Thursday, April 22, 2004 at 22:24:32 (CDT)
Genes count for something. I can always make at least a C without studying. It's horrible, but true. So I've gotten grades without learning anything, but I would attribute most of it to genes and a nuturing environment when I was younger. I don't jump through any of the professors' hoops, and I go to small school where they are always up in your Kool-Aid without knowing the flavor. Thanks for the genes Dad!
College Station, TX USA TX A&M - Friday, November 07, 2003 at 02:19:52 (CST)
I was accused of this by the dean of the nursing department. I was experiencing a lack of drive that she interperted to as me not understanding the material. Turns out I just didn't want to be in that profession after all! But I worked my rear off for four years...
Yeah, EVERYONE has done this once or twice, usually back in middle school or in their freshman year in high school or college (back when one thinks he's "cool" and getting away with something). But I never made a habit of it. I like what I study, and why on earth would anyone "fudge it" just to get a degree when you're gonna need this stuff after school!?
When it came to nursing, I didn't have to do anything really exceptional to get relly good grades and LEARN, because it was stuff I'd been conditioned for my whole life. But changing over to a recreation/geriatrics focus was rough. I am having to learn how to learn. I wasn't conditioned for this field, and for once, I have a wonderfuly healthy sense of wonder and curiosity for this new material. But there are some days that anyone can fall for that "p r e t e n d I'm Ms. Perfect Student" routine. I haven't met anyone yet who hasn't done that at least once in his education, but too many who do it for all their education. Mabye that's why so many of our professionals etc. are sub-par these days- they're really good at putting on a show.
Meri M. mmessing*student.lssu.edu>
Sault Ste Marie, MI USA Lake Superior State University - Wednesday, April 23, 2003 at 22:34:40 (CDT)
Unfortunately, jumping through a series of hoops to get an "A" grade is easy. But jumping through a series of hoops to gain knowledge and actually learn something requires effort and dedication to your discipline. Nonetheless, kudos to your "Getting a good grade 101". I'm currently working on a research proposal that states: Grades do not accurately reflect learning. Is there any research or study on the correlation between getting good grades and learning. What I mean is, how come so many students at the elementary level in our state seem to obtain decent grades, and then struggle with,or fail the WASL. What about all of the high school students across the nation who earn gpa's of 3.5 or higher and then take the SAT test and score below 800? Do grades really reflect learning? I wonder . . .
Pre-service teacher :)
Aaron Roiko <roikos*peoplepc.com>
grayland, WA USA Washington State University at Aberdeen - Tuesday, December 03, 2002 at 23:53:43 (CST)
hey!! i was just going through some articles trying to find some information about a topic of research that i have to do for a class on the subject of TR and i came across this. i though some of your comments were funny!!! i hope your having a great summer! talk to you later
Emily Fink <ejfink*indiana.edu>
Bloomington, IN USA indiana university - Tuesday, June 04, 2002 at 21:32:39 (CDT)
If you want us to show up and listen, we will, if you want to motivate us, then teach.
Brendan Moore <brendan*email.unc.edu>
Chapel Hill, NC USA UNC-CH Dept. of Rec. and Leisure Studies, Graduate Student, Recreation Therapy - Monday, November 05, 2001 at 17:23:52 (CST)
Classic!!!! Now I can receive good greades from Dr. Langsner!!!!
Brooke Taylor <bjt01*uark.edu>
Fayetteville, AR USA Univeristy of Arkansas - Wednesday, June 13, 2001 at 10:05:53 (CDT)
I am a returning student at CSUN. Your article would be funny if it wern't so tragically true! I am really amazed at what goes on and passes for "higher education." If other professionals do not understand the value of TR I do not think the current student population is going to help. I do see how they could hinder the field and profession though. I hope I am wrong.
Very concerned in CA
Virginia Barslund <virginiabar*earthlink.net>
San Fernando, CA USA CSUN - Sunday, December 12, 1999 at 18:26:00 (CST)
Never turn the lights out when viewing the "Ethics" video, student chairs have a tendency to tip at the drop of a lid.
Kelly Sipes <KGSIPES*AOL.COM>
Cheney, WA USA Eastern Washington - Wednesday, October 27, 1999 at 23:52:05 (CDT)
your advice is golden for rec classes
Estelle hart <ehart*ycp.edu>
york , PA USA york college - Saturday, January 23, 1999 at 22:49:31 (CST)
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