Archive for September 23rd, 2009

Eighty percent of students in my introduction to sociology course this semester are freshmen.  I’ve taught classes with freshmen plenty of times, but there were lots of sophomores, juniors, and seniors to dilute the freshmenness of them.  So far this semester it has been extremely evident that these students have never experienced college life.  This is evident in their use of textese, it is evident in their time management skills, and it is evident in their talking during class.  Obviously, a lot of talking in my courses is sanctioned but I have had constant problems with students talking to each other instead of paying attention or sharing their opinions with their classmates.

When this happens, my first inclination is to call them out.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that this helps anybody but me.  Long ago I did some observations in an alternative high school and marveled at the way that students who weren’t paying attention were asked questions that brought them back into the discussion rather than alienating them.  This is the model I have tried to follow when teaching my own courses.  When these tactics fail, I talk to students after class or during a group exercise and ask them to “do me a favor” and stop talking.  This usually works and I think students appreciate that I did not call them out in front of their classmates.

These tactics did not work this semester.

Because of the freshmenness of these students, I feel that one of my jobs is to school them about college life.  To this end I spent ten minutes at the beginning of a recent class talking about the financial costs of attending a private college and the fact that students who talk are wasting the money of those around them.  I also talked about the fact that college students, unlike high school students, have the choice to stay home.  I concluded by telling them that speaking out of turn, whether they are ignoring me or a classmate, will lead to an invitation to leave the classroom.  We’ll see how it goes.

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