Showing posts from November, 2014

Don't shift the blame, blame the shift

I groused a bit about students yesterday, which is allowed from time to time.  But so too is asking myself the question I usually ask whenever I hear colleagues grousing about students: How long have you been teaching?  In what world is it that students don't behave this way? 

The truth is that faculty--myself included--don't really understand students today.  I was reminded of this fact while speed skimming something I was to have read before a meeting yesterday (you'll note the irony of my student-like last minute preparation here).   At my institution new faculty are paired with a more seasoned colleague and we meet periodically to share ideas.  Once a month, too, all of the mentors and mentees meet to discuss a book about teaching and learning.  This year's choice was Therese Huston's Teaching What You Don't Know, a wonderfully insightful resource for all faculty, even those who somehow find themselves teaching what they do know. 

Chapter Six of Huston&#…

The Pact

A few years back PBS produced a documentary entitled Declining by Degrees.  One segment detailed something called The Pact.  This was the unspoken agreement in higher education between students and professors to place minimal demands upon one another.  Professors reduce their expectations and students agree not to complain about the dumbed down standards.  For both parties, the pact is a pretty good deal.  Professors have more time to do research or complete their other work, and students get the semblance of an education without having to do much.

I used to show the YouTube clip of The Pact in the capstone of our old core curriculum. This was a course in which students reflected on and evaluated the significance, meaning and purpose of their undergraduate education.  I always ended the course with a prosecution of the liberal arts, throwing every argument I could think of into a summation of higher education's shortcomings and sins. 

The little segment on The Pact was Exhibit A…

And may there be "some" moaning of the bar

What to do with students who moan?  Should you empathize, treat their kvetching with indifference or slap it down quick?  Yesterday I got a chorus of how many more papers do we have to write in this class?  This is a lot of work and I've got so much going on.  I said I understood and I try to be reasonable in my expectations, but "you can't see progress if don't do the workouts." Here's my expectation in the class where I heard the moaning: read the material before class and compose a typed, well-supported response to a directed reading prompt.  This is the ticket into class that shows they are ready to discuss the material.  Readings are selections from primary texts and never more than 8-10 pages in length, often shorter.  They are dense but brief.  The responses are low stakes assignments.  So long as the students are wrestling with the texts and anchoring their summaries and inter-textual connections in citations, they receive full credit. At the end of …