The Daily Californian Online

Benefits of 'Dead Week' Difficult to Gauge

By Samantha Strimling
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Monday, December 6, 2010
Category: Special

One of the biggest tests of finals week will be whether the new Reading, Review and Recitation week, implemented in fall 2009, will prove the principle that student grades benefit from a whole week of unscheduled time devoted to reading and reviewing their course material.

While many students said the extra days of study time with optional review sessions - referred to colloquially as RRR week or "dead week" - is helpful if used wisely, professors were unsure whether grades have changed significantly due to the increased study time.

"A lot of people won't study and they'll party and stuff," said freshman and intended English major Spandan Bandyopadhyay, who said he has not really studied throughout the semester. "But I will because I am really worried about these exams."

However, junior Grace Boone, a double major in integrated biology and South and Southeast Asian studies, said that even though she needs to use RRR week effectively, in years past she has "still ended up cramming" during the second part of dead week.

Though the Academic Senate issued guidelines in 1984 and 1991 stipulating that professors were never supposed to present new material on the 15th week of instruction, RRR week is supposed to also "serve as a time of active engagement between instructors and students for consultations, reviews, and feedback," according to the Office of the Registrar website.

Boone said many of her teachers are offering review sessions and that these will be the part of dead week she is "counting on" to do well in her classes.

Biology professor Gary Firestone said his review sessions have been very well-attended, usually drawing 300 or 400 students out of over 600 total in the class.

Firestone also said that questions he has received in such review sessions - as well in e-mails, which he encourages students to send up until the final exam - seem much more thoughtful than in years before dead week.

He said grades on final exams have not differed substantially from years past. He said this might be due to the objective nature of biology, which prevents grades from reflecting the amount of thought put into the answer.

Even if grades are not directly affected, students are more likely to remember the information in the long term if they study over a longer period of time. In an educational study on retention, those who condensed a 30-minute lesson into one period remembered the information just as well the next day as those who spread the lesson over three days, but the second group retained the information 35 percent better four days later.

Junior Aaron Murphy, an English major who transferred this year from UC Santa Barbara, where there was no dead week, said he had high expectations.

"I always found myself wanting a few extra days to just look over the material," he said. "Especially in classes where you cover a lot, such as language classes."

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