Showing posts from March, 2015

Speed Dating

Getting student writers to develop their compositions more slowly (i.e., using a process approach) is the reigning pedagogical orthodoxy.  And it's a good one because left to their own devices most students will sit down--usually the night before a paper is due--and invent, compose, revise and edit all in one go. 

What they usually fail to do is test out various approaches, drop arguments that aren't working or even rethink their original idea.  Too often the deadline looms and the deadline dictates. 

So structuring the stages of the writing process inside the work of the classroom really helps.  At one class period you ask them to choose the prompt they will respond to; the next time you begin to work out the thesis and think about evidence; at a later time you ask for a CFD (crappy first draft).  Anything you can do to slow them down and stretch out their thinking and writing process is good work.
That said, there is a moment during the process where it's fun to speed…

Got my mojo workin' but it just don't work on you

It's March, the week after break, and lately spring has been playing a coquettish game of slap and tickle: one day all is bright and beautiful, the next day cold rains smack us back into reality.

And me? 

Well I'm up there in front of the classroom dancing my little pedagogical posterior off, and with some darned good stuff, too.  A lot of it is my A material.

In the junior-level core seminar I'm tearing Thomas Friedman's "World is Flat" thesis asunder with charts and graphs.  Charts and graphs, man, and the occasional derisive sneer.   In Introduction to Humanities I am exploring the increased tensions inherent in the emergent religious pluralism of 17th century Western European society. Scientific Revolution, baby!  Bacon, Newton, Harvey!

And in the Honors Seminar we're applying developmental psychological models to both Victor Frankenstein and his creature.  My mojo is more than working.  Frankly, the stuff I'm doing in class is downright interes…

They're not broken

Yesterday I sat in on a meeting with a hired-gun retention expert who told us we aren't imagining it if we sense a change in the readiness levels of our current students.  I've long known about the statistics showing today's students are less well-prepared.  Only 25 percent of first-year students are hitting all four ACT readiness benchmarks in writing, reading, math and science.  The numbers for science and reading are particularly depressing (only 30 percent achieve readiness standards in science, 50 percent in reading). 

At the same time, I have also been reluctant to fall into "the students today are broken" school of thought, an all-too seductive position for faculty to adopt because it allows us to sniff and say, "Well, until the high schools start sending me better students, there's nothing I can do." 

The truth is there are things we can do to increase our effectiveness with underprepared students and they don't always involve lowerin…

Babbling and Strewing Flowers

All week the students have been watching the weather forecast.  Today--for the first time since possibly last November--the temperatures will creep close to 50 degrees, which means there will be no end of incandescently pale knees and bared toes all over campus. 

If this were last fall and temps were in the 40s, students would be laden in sweatshirts, Ugg boots and freshly un-mothballed sweaters.  But let the first warm day in March appear and common sense can take a hike.  It's spring!  Break out the shorts and flip-flops.  And if spring is here, can one long Corona-soaked patio bar summer be far behind?  Yippee!

It doesn't help that Spring Break is a week away or that today in the first-year honors seminar we begin to discuss Emerson's Nature.  When temps hit 65 next Wednesday, I fully expect to hear requests to take the class outside.  The fact that we're reading Nature will no doubt be among the arguments employed.  Damn Emerson with his head "bathed by the …