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SU biology professor throws convention (and exam answers) out the window Feb. 27
SU biology professor throws convention (and exam answers) out the window Feb. 27February 24, 2006Carol K. Masiclatclkim@syr.edu
Anxious and eager, they assemble outside Lyman Hall for the big moment. Jockeying for position, students gather under the second-story window to participate in one of Syracuse University’s cherished traditions, the BIO 123 exam answer key toss. Professor Marvin Druger opens the window and engages in some playful antics with the students before the main event. Inevitably, someone shouts, “Jump!” Finally, Druger checks the wind speed and direction, and throws sheets of paper down to the students — answer keys to the course exam, taken by hundreds of students in various locations across campus just hours earlier.
A favorite of students past and present, Druger’s answer key toss occurs next at 9 p.m. sharp Monday, Feb. 27, from a window in Room 103 of Lyman Hall.
While it is an unusual way to get exam answers into the hands of students, the toss is effective, according to Druger. “It’s a very efficient way of distributing the answers to the students to let them know what they got wrong and why. This also gives them a chance to discuss the answers with me immediately after each exam.” He believes revealing answers promptly is important, because students lose interest if they have to wait for weeks to get them. “Some students come see me right away,” Druger says. “Some of them even call me at home that night!”
Years ago, answer keys were given out as students left exam rooms. When Druger discovered instances of cheating, he had the students instead assemble outside Sims Hall, where at the time the biology department had offices on the third floor. He was about to walk downstairs to distribute the answer keys personally, but he found the stairwell mobbed with students. Instead ofstruggling to make his way through the crowd, Druger decided to simply throw the answers out the window — and a tradition was born.
After several years of the answer key toss, Druger came up with the idea to share exam answers on a series of “Saturday Night Live”-type programs called “The Bio Answer Show,” which aired immediately after the exam on the student-run campus television station. On the show, he would perform humorous skits, review the answers to the test questions, and conduct a drawing for wacky prizes. The show was discontinued when technical difficulties disabled the broadcast, and Druger resumed the traditional key-tossing event.
The answer key toss serves another valuable purpose — to have fun. Says Druger: “We try to provide students with memorable experiences. When I see alumni years and years later, they don’t ask me questions about the Krebs Cycle, they ask me, ‘Do you still throw answer keys out the window?’ That happens frequently. You forget information, but you don’t forget experiences. What I’m trying to do is provide meaningful and memorable experiences that will stay with you the rest of your life.”
One of SU’s best-known professors, Druger joined the University in 1962. He has taught more than 40,000 students and has been president of three national organizations, including the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest science education organization in the world. Druger has been awarded many honors, including the 2000 Robert H. Carleton Award for National Leadership in the Field of Science Education, the highest award given by the NSTA. He also received the highest award given by the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE), an international science education organization. Druger was named a Laura J. & L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence at Syracuse University in 1997.