high school - college retention

Old college threads.
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No Rules Westbrook
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Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Well, I'll accept your baseball analogy if you restrict it to the postulate that less people are "willing." It's simply untrue that a person of even average intelligence with no training whatsoever can't become a viable college player with a decent amount of work. But, of course, the real question being asked here is why these people are "unwilling"...we're not dealing with a normal bell curve of skills here, the proportion of people who do make a real jump from hs to college is way too low for that. The analogy is more like this, I think - a whole crapload of people seem content to remain in A ball (or retire from baseball entirely) while the AA, AAA, and major league teams are left playing games with a pitcher, a catcher, and a utility infielder...the AA team may also have a centerfielder who suffers a career-ending injury halfway through the season.

One big suggestion I proffer for the reason why this happens is: people care way too much and focus too much on the whole "game" aspect of qb. I think most players, especially inexperienced ones, sort of see the whole idea of qb as buzz in, score points, win games, carry trophies home...where the whole point that we should be promoting is "learn stuff" and "accumulate knowledge" (and, to a lesser extent, the whole egoism of being able to say "look how much stuff I know"). Of course, I grant that if you do learn stuff/accumulate knowledge, you're going to score points and win games (or at least you should, or start going to different tournaments where that happens)...but, that's all secondary in my mind. It seems to me that if more people would see qb as a sort of personal pursuit for knowledge (and sometimes a pursuit where you can compare yourself to other players) - all of these other silly arguments about how to encourage people to continue getting better/liking the game would just go away, as they should.

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Post by wwellington »

I don't see how downplaying the game aspect and making it all about the personal pursuit of knowledge will encourage more people to play. It seems that'd just make people realize that maybe they'd be better off reading books and learning new things for their own sake rather than doing it for competition (not that this is a bad thing, but I don't think it'll help much with retention).

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Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

wwellington wrote:I don't see how downplaying the game aspect and making it all about the personal pursuit of knowledge will encourage more people to play. It seems that'd just make people realize that maybe they'd be better off reading books and learning new things for their own sake rather than doing it for competition (not that this is a bad thing, but I don't think it'll help much with retention).
The game aspect sort of speaks for itself. Obviously quizbowl is a game with tournaments, matches, points, and, of course, the trophies, fame, and fortune that come with winning. That aspect of quizbowl doesn't need to be emphasized: it's there, it's FUUUUNNNN, and you can give it as much or as little weight as you want.

I agree with Ryan's point that, while all of those things are well and good, the key goal in quizbowl should be the pursuit of knowledge. It is unfortunate when new players quit quizbowl out of frustration for not immediately winning tournaments and individual awards. New players should understand that their immediate goal should be learning valuable and important information with the knowledge that, in time, this information will enable them to score points and win matches.

Quizbowl is a useful tool because it provides a structure for learning a great variety of academic knowledge. People can and do learn the type of knowledge quizbowl covers on their own but, at least in my experience, it's rare.

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Post by Djibouti »

The key goal in quizbowl indeed should be the pursuit of knowledge, and a good quizbowl player will dedicate the proper time to studying. However, many of us are drawn to quizbowl because of our love of trivia and passion for the game. For those who don't have this attachment to trivia competition (for me, "trivia" and "competition" say it all, but that's me and not everyone), the game aspect needs to be emphasized alongside the need to study. The game aspect draws people, though they need to see that in oder to compete one must study. Remember, not all people share the passion for quizbowl that we have; in order to retain them, we have to realize this and pair winning with studying in their minds. If studying leads to winning, then there's incentive to study.

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

If quizbowl players are motivated by the pure pursuit of knowledge, then they act very irrationally as a whole.

Surely, knowledge can be better gained through sitting at home and reading, rather than driving for hours and staying in unheated hotels in Ypsilanti during February all for the reward of spending the next day in small rooms filled with people of questionable cleanliness and annoying personality.

There must be some desire for some sort of competition or at least a "thrill of the game" element, or else quizbowl does not follow from merely the desire to gain knowledge.
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Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

I don't really see how the competition aspect can be emphasized more. That quizbowl is a competitive enterprise is self evident. How can the game's competitive nature be changed to attract more high school students? More sports analogies?

As far as quizbowl being an irrational way to expand knowledge, I disagree. I can think of few other activities in which one can be exposed to such a wide variety of academic subjects in a condensed period of time. I would guess that a great number of current and former players credit quizbowl with exposing them to vast areas of knowledge they would never have experienced otherwise. That's certainly the case for me. Perhaps the college game would attract more players if that aspect of the game were emphasized more. But probably not.

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Post by yoda4554 »

Furthermore, the qb definition of "valuable knowledge" differs fairly widely from its definition in most canonical fields. For qb, it's necessary that a good player have very broad knowledge of a subject, but for the most part going into any kind of depth has diminishing qb returns. It's my impression that most fields look at it the other way, that breadth is well and good but only as a base from which to set up some deeper penetration.

For example, I imagine most non-qb people who are legitimately interested in pursuing literary knowledge would not be interested in memorizing plot summaries and work-author associations; after all, time spent doing that could be spent reading a smaller number of poems and novels. But as many people have stated, that perspective is simply ineffective at putting together a qb-useful set of information, unless exercised over a very long period of time. No matter how much you read, you need to know extended bibliographies of major writers, and character names and key events/lines to major works you haven't read, to make consistently decent tossup conversion.

I personally enjoy playing more when looking at qb as a game separate from any kind of higher academic pursuit. When people take tossups based on trivial author-work correlations (which I certainly have done my share of), I think it's more demonstrative of ability to succeed at the game than any worthwhile knowledge of the subject, or else the question probably wouldn't have gotten to that point. Perhaps someone's studied this more thoroughly, but it's been my impression that a large percentage of questions (40-50%? Does anyone have a better estimate?) asked to teams at the appropriate difficulty level don't get answered until the last line or two--which doesn't necessarily mean that players know little about the subject, but it doesn't say very strongly otherwise.

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

The Shock Master wrote:I disagree. I can think of few other activities in which one can be exposed to such a wide variety of academic subjects in a condensed period of time.
Browsing Wikipedia, as just one example, will expose you to a wide variety of academic subjects in a condensed period of time -- all without having to travel or deal with quizbowl players.

And people won't buzz in and make the Wikipedia article stop while you're in the middle of reading it.

ANTICIPATED REBUTTAL: Yes, Wikipedia can be imperfect, but that is why you research anything you pick up there in other sources. Arguing that my post above is inaccurate because Wikipedia is flawed is not a successful strategy unless you also argue that things can be learned entirely from quizbowl question clues, without having to go research those later.
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Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

yoda4554 wrote:For qb, it's necessary that a good player have very broad knowledge of a subject, but for the most part going into any kind of depth has diminishing qb returns. It's my impression that most fields look at it the other way, that breadth is well and good but only as a base from which to set up some deeper penetration.
Yeah, I totally agree that being good at quizbowl does not by itself give one in-depth knowledge of a subject. But it's a decent way to develope a broad knowledge of important subjects. Academia seems to favor specialization for sure, so I'm glad quizbowl is there for those of us who appreciate a broader perspective.

Regarding the Wikipedia analogy, well, what can I say. Just play the wiki game in the QB chatroom sometime to get a feel for the kind of knowledge you can acquire by randomly searching that loathsome webpage.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Yeah, I'm with Shock here. Part of the appeal of QB and its usefulness in pursuing knowledge is that it is "broad-based"...if you're like me, you have no interest in becoming a "scholar" within the typical university definition - that is, studying one subject/metasubject exhaustively. My conception goes something like this: I'd like to know everything. But, I know that's metaphysically impossible (or, in any event, that I'm incapable of it) and I know also that I don't have an infinite willingness to try to learn everything. So, I settle for trying to learn a decent amount about a bunch of things (while excepting some topics that I care about less) focusing on the things one might define as the most "important" in a particular subject (however you define important). And qb is a good device to do that - as has been said, I know a number of players have been introduced to a wide range of "important" knowledge via qb. Listening to questions and then going back and looking at them and researching the subject if you're interested and/or writing a question of your own on the subject is a very useful way to acquire knowledge, I think anyway. I'm not discounting the validity of reading books/wikipedia/other methods of acquiring knowledge (granted you take that middle one with a grain of salt of course).

As I mentioned earlier, qb also has a unique comparative aspect to it. You can see what other people know and compare yourself to that...also, even though I'm deliberately understating it, there is the egoism of showing off your superior set of knowledge. I'm not saying it shouldn't be a "game" or that we shouldn't like the game part of it - as Shock said, that a game is being played is self-evident. It's evident in the fact that we're not just sitting around in a circle talking about Descartes. There are times when the game aspect is more important than others (playing for a title). But, I think maybe focusing on that whole aspect leads a lot of people to lose interest and motivation in playing the "game" itself, ironically. After all, if it's just a game, they may as well go play another game they can derive more immediate enjoyment and success from...like intramural strip broomball.

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Post by grapesmoker »

I think people are ignoring the social aspect of the game, as well as the fact that some of us learn best by doing. So, on the one hand, actually writing a proper pyramidal tossup requires you to process the information you learned in an active way, rather than a passive way, and for me, at least, this strengthens information retention. On the other hand, it's a great excuse to make friends at your own and other universities and to just hang out and have a good time. Combine all those things in an appealing way, and I think you start generating a lot of interest. Of course, there is a large percentage of people coming from the high school teams that just aren't going to be interested for whatever reason; I don't think there's anything you can do to change that. The goal should be to make playing a good experience for those who are already interested.

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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

OK, but once you introduce the comparative argument or the social argument, you are no longer arguing that quizbowl's appeal is entirely that of increasing one's knowledge.
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Post by grapesmoker »

Bruce wrote:OK, but once you introduce the comparative argument or the social argument, you are no longer arguing that quizbowl's appeal is entirely that of increasing one's knowledge.
I never pretended to argue that. That's certainly the majority of its appeal to me, but it's certainly true that social factors play a large role in peoples' decision to continue playing or not. Especially in college, where there are many choices of activities.

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Post by QuizbowlPostmodernist »

Are people overestimating the feasible percentage of high school players who can be retained in college? How well do comparable activities such as Model UN retain HS participants in college? Are there any other activities that can also be compared to quizbowl? If you were in Model UN or on the chess team or some other activity in high school that was available at college, but didn't continue with it like you did with quizbowl, what stopped you?

Regarding the discusion of the "game" aspect vs the individual pursuit of knowledge, and downplaying one vs the other, is there necessarily a conflict here? Is it bad if different people are passionate about quizbowl for different reasons, even if those differences cause people to have different ideas of what makes for a good question or packet?

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Post by Rothlover »

Debate is incredibly successful at retention and expansion. 'Deis' debate team had about 30 tournament-going members, and 4-5 times that who were casually involved or who could staff at events on campus. There is a strong party element though. Before the last tournament I recall the two debate houses threw a party for staff/friends and the debaters from other schools that had about 400 people. I don't know if any qb program has ever done anything on that scale, or would ever want to. I personally never got why the promise of alcohol made so many people willing to put up with whole weekend tournaments that saw them play 5 matches at most.
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Post by Matt Weiner »

yoda4554 wrote:Furthermore, the qb definition of "valuable knowledge" differs fairly widely from its definition in most canonical fields. For qb, it's necessary that a good player have very broad knowledge of a subject, but for the most part going into any kind of depth has diminishing qb returns.
This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, given that the major theme behind the philosophy of good tournaments has for years been "reward real, in-depth knowledge before memorization of surface generalities." If you go in with the idea that the above is what quizbowl is all about then you will find yourself steered towards the tournaments where it is true and continue to be puzzled about the tournaments where it is not.

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Post by yoda4554 »

Matt, I have yet to see a tournament with a bonus that read something like, "For 30 points, write a ten-page paper discussing insanity as depicted in The Tin Drum," and I have yet to see a graded English assignment that read "Name ten novels written by Gunter Grass." I'm not arguing that the two knowledges are totally unrelated, but that they're not at all the same thing. It is quite possible to get 20 or 30 points on a bonus at a very good tournament (even this year's CO), which is supposed to be a sign of superior qb knowledge, on a Gunter Grass bonus without ever having read a single thing by him, and as far as I know that kind of knowledge is useless in any non-qb setting. This is not to say that someone who's writing a dissertation on Grass would not get a 30 on such a bonus, nor that such a bonus could not encourage people to actually go read something by him, but that the two are not the same thing nor are they necessarily related.

And furthermore, while I recognize that most good tournaments do take pains to reward people who have read the book in question, practically speaking one is almost always better-served by doing memorization work on several books than reading one, due to the vastness of the higher-level canon. At the last Chicago Open, for example, on what percentage of questions on specific written works was there only one person in a room who had read it, or none at all who had read it? IIRC, in the match between our teams, which wasn't a terribly high-powered literature room but wasn't that shabby either, no one seemed to have read The American, The Devils, or A New Way To Pay Old Debts (or the questions were hard enough such that you and Sorice have read them and still couldn't get them until the last lines). I've read four novels each by James and Dostoevsky, and I would imagine your team might have as well, but that was more or less useless from the game's perspective, not to mention beside the point. I'm not saying that it should or can be any different, but that's the way the game currently works.

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Post by Captain Sinico »

Conversely, I've yet to go to a discussion of literature (or any academic topic, for that matter) that required a 10-page essay. In fact, most of them don't presume familiarity with a given topic.
Taking those as examples, and as someone pursuing advanced degrees, I'll say that your construal of the scholar's task as a focused analysis of a single thing in a single way is impossibly narrow and unrealistic. The simple truth is that even a single-topic, single-method analysis will invariably require an understanding of outside things (hence, some bredth,) even if just to realize a choice among alternatives.
Moreover, in the specific case of literature that you're apparently so fond of, it is the case (as it was the last time this old saw was brought out) that the mere facts of a work of literature (its plot, characters, author, etc.) underpin any more advanced analysis. They are, therefore, perfectly valid clues from any perspective. I don't think they ought to be early clues as they're easier than things like the deep meaning of symbols, but that's another matter.
It would seem to me that, even though it doesn't focus on in-depth analysis of a single object, quizbowl can be a perfectly valid academic activity on a par with many of the things that go on in degree programs.

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Post by grapesmoker »

Mike has already made this point, but I think it bears repeating that you have to know the facts of whatever it is you're analyzing before you can do any kind of serious work with the material. If you are studying a subject, it makes sense that you are going to have not only in-depth knowledge of it but also all the basic facts behind it. So, it stands to reason that someone who has done graduate work in literature and therefore presumably had to read lots of literary works will generally beat someone who just has surface knowledge. Whatever the case, quizbowl is a game with a particular format; it's a game in which there are well-defined right and wrong answers. To compare quizbowl to some other kind of academic activity is to compare very different things. I prefer to consider the game on its own merits.

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Post by grapesmoker »

yoda4554 wrote:And furthermore, while I recognize that most good tournaments do take pains to reward people who have read the book in question, practically speaking one is almost always better-served by doing memorization work on several books than reading one, due to the vastness of the higher-level canon.
I forgot to address this, but I don't believe this is the case. Memorizing plot details is hard. Obviously, if you hear enough tossups on a very canonical work you will remember many of the plot elements, but just sitting there and reading Masterplots or whatever is, in my experience, a pretty poor way of picking up points as far as the effort to reward ratio is concerned. Studying plot elements can certainly help you, but unless you've got an amazing memory, you'll still be beaten by someone who has actually read the work.

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Post by Matt Weiner »

yoda4554 wrote:Matt, I have yet to see a tournament with a bonus that read something like, "For 30 points, write a ten-page paper discussing insanity as depicted in The Tin Drum," and I have yet to see a graded English assignment that read "Name ten novels written by Gunter Grass."
I have yet to see a bonus that asks you to simply list Gunter Grass novels, and while I've certainly seen tossups on Grass that are just lists of his titles, the crux of my argument here is that such tossups are considered very poor and are not to be found at good tournaments. The version of good quizbowl that you are using in your comparison is not realistic.
It is quite possible to get 20 or 30 points on a bonus at a very good tournament (even this year's CO), which is supposed to be a sign of superior qb knowledge, on a Gunter Grass bonus without ever having read a single thing by him, and as far as I know that kind of knowledge is useless in any non-qb setting.
But you probably won't get 30. The point is not to construct a bonus such that people with real knowledge get 30 every time and people without it get 0 every time. The point is to make gradations, and I think tournaments such as this past Chicago Open did a pretty good job of keeping first-clue buzzes and 30s in the hands of people with real knowledge and away from people who just know stuff from old packets, while still throwing out 10s and 20s a lot of the time.

And, as Jerry and Mike have alluded to, even "breadth" knowledge has many uses. Just the other day I was reading a science fiction story (one unlikely to ever come up and earn me an early buzz, alas) in which a simulacrum which believes itself to be Don Quixote was a minor character. I've never read all of Don Quixote, but knowing the major character traits of the cultural reference was sufficient to understand what the author of the story I was reading intended by using that character. That's the sort of thing one can pick up from quizbowl. Many fields, such as mythology and religious studies, justify themselves largely in how they help us understand allusions in literary, artistic, or historical subjects of more immediate relevance. There's no reason not to appreciate the similar process that goes on with playing on or writing academic packets.

Certainly no one is arguing that haphazard knowledge of fourteen different fields is any kind of substitute or competitor for actual university work, but to say that you can't get a valuable supplementary knowledge ouf of quizbowl seems needlessly defeatist.
And furthermore, while I recognize that most good tournaments do take pains to reward people who have read the book in question, practically speaking one is almost always better-served by doing memorization work on several books than reading one, due to the vastness of the higher-level canon.
Better-served in what goal? If you want to win local tournaments, sure, stock up on third-to-last clues and memorize a few things about each book that comes up regularly. If you want to dominate literature at Chicago Open, ACF Nationals, or other tournaments that often feature people who regularly get questions on things they have read, then you will have to actually read things. It will not serve you well to memorize Masterplots at an event where 10 other people have done the same thing. You have to be able to get the real clues, even if it's only on, say, half of the lit questions (this gives you an overwhelming total advantage when the other questions become coin-flips).
At the last Chicago Open, for example, on what percentage of questions on specific written works was there only one person in a room who had read it, or none at all who had read it? IIRC, in the match between our teams, which wasn't a terribly high-powered literature room but wasn't that shabby either, no one seemed to have read The American, The Devils, or A New Way To Pay Old Debts (or the questions were hard enough such that you and Sorice have read them and still couldn't get them until the last lines).
That speaks only to the quality of the editing, in that people who had read those works had a huge advantage, whereas even in a room where no one had, we still were able to have a competitive game and get the questions.

Anyway, I think I've lost your point somewhere here. How does this relate to the retention of high school players? Are they more or less likely to play if the canon of answers is larger than what one person can usually be expected to have direct familarity with (though not so large that the significance of tossup answers is lost--I don't think anyone with a solid high school quizbowl background would fail to recognize who Henry James or Fyodor Dostoyevsky are)? Do new players like the "game" aspect, where people who haven't read A New Way to Pay Old Debts attempt to figure out questions on it anyhow, or do they like the "knowledge" aspect, where people who haven't read things have their ignorance punished by missing the question entirely? I don't quite see where you are going with this line of dialogue, so please clarify.

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Post by QuizbowlPostmodernist »

Rothlover wrote:Debate is incredibly successful at retention and expansion. 'Deis' debate team had about 30 tournament-going members, and 4-5 times that who were casually involved or who could staff at events on campus. There is a strong party element though. Before the last tournament I recall the two debate houses threw a party for staff/friends and the debaters from other schools that had about 400 people. I don't know if any qb program has ever done anything on that scale, or would ever want to. I personally never got why the promise of alcohol made so many people willing to put up with whole weekend tournaments that saw them play 5 matches at most.
But do more people do debate in high school compared to quizbowl? What percentage of Brandeis students who did debate in high school still do it in college? What does that number look like for quizbowl? If these numbers are dissimilar at various schools, why is that?

Is there a problem with some quizbowl teams being run in a way that doesn't encourage the sort of casual involvement of people who might not even play, but who could reliably staff a tournament? I'm sure the answer to that question varies from team to team? While such people shouldn't be the focal point of a team, neither should they be entirely neglected.

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Post by Ray »

The only reason I still play quiz bowl is because my teammates are typically so good that I can pick up wins and contend for titles by sitting around and doing basically nothing. As long as Bruce keeps studying, I'll keep playing.

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