Posts Tagged ‘College Students’

A few days ago, Justin Martin commented at Inside Higher Ed on the well-known belief that students don’t live in the “real world.”  He justifiably argues that they are:

The students I teach are professional jugglers who make a Cirque du Soleil show look like a barn dance. Among them they’re balancing academic course loads, community service, part-time or even full-time jobs, loan debt, athletic training and competition, transient housing situations, along with some of life’s other gems like a sick parent, a sibling in Afghanistan, or an unplanned pregnancy.

One of the primary reasons educated Americans are such successful professionals is that the college years are hard. “The real world” isn’t so daunting to college graduates because they’ve already spent four or five years in it. The deadlines they face are very real, and I know this because I rigidly impose some of them, and my students know that the word “dead” is in deadline for a reason. I don’t go easy on my students, but I also don’t belittle the loads they carry. College students in the U.S. are impressive people, and their hard work should be praised, not demeaned.

Of course, as I’ve stated before, I also think that people use the idea of the “real world” to privilege their own experiences over systematic data collection and the experiences of others.

Via: Historiann


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Given my former statement that instructors are letting students off the hook for their failure to complete assigned readings, I have tried to hold students to higher standards when grading.  This is especially true for writing assignments.  This includes requiring students to have things like thesis statements that they support with relevant examples.  In one course, I required students to write brief summaries of some topic that had stood out to them during the previous section of the course, asking them to combine the information in their readings to look at something from a different perspective.  These papers were okay at best.

Although there was some improvement as the semester went on, students seemed nearly incapable of writing an original thesis statement and supporting that statement with data.  While I am not sure why this is the case, I was interested in on particular comment on a student’s course evaluation:  “Dr. Smith asked us to write summary papers after each unit.  When he graded the first papers, he graded them as persuasive essays, expecting an argument and support in the papers.  This made it difficult to write the papers.”  Based on this sentence, I’m not sure what exactly made the papers difficult to write (the combination of summary and argument? conflicting instructions and grading?) but I was struck by the use of the term “persuasive essays.”  To me, all essays should be persuasive.  This student, however, considers persuasive essays to be a particular type of writing that is separate from most writing.  In future classes I’m going to explore this language further to see if I can help students bridge the gap between persuasive essays and essays.

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Anybody who has ever sat down to construct an assignment for students knows that it can be time consuming and difficult work.  Trying to balance the amount of work that students have to do with the goals you want them to achieve and the assignment’s proportion of the course grade often takes me much longer than I anticipate.  Grading assignments is similarly time consuming.  Both of these factors add to the frustration associated with a stack of assignments in which many of the students seem to have forgotten that the assignment had any guidelines at all.  If I may, allow me to address the college students out there:

Students, if your instructor puts the time into constructing an assignment the least you can do is read it!  I have also heard from numerous sources that there is a high correlation between following the guidelines of an assignment and doing well on said assignment, partially because so many of your peers will fail to follow these guidelines that whatever you turn in will look like a masterwork by comparison.

I should note that this has been true of students at each of the institutions where I have taught but I sometimes wonder if the students in one of my courses have conspired to rid the planet of grade inflation one requirement at a time.

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One of the dangers of assigning a book that has been turned into a movie is that students will think they can watch the movie instead of doing the reading.

One of the pleasures of assigning a book that has been turned into a movie is asking students questions about characters and events that did not happen in the book and then letting them know that I was not, in fact, born yesterday.*

*The pleasure gained from this experience is just enough to make me overlook the fact that it runs counter to my preferred way of dealing with problems.

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I am no longer ABF.  In fact, I haven’t been ABF for nearly three months.  I’ve moved, arranged my office, attended orientation, and started teaching.  Despite these things, there has never been a moment when I started feeling different.  Participating in graduation didn’t do it because I wasn’t even done with my dissertation yet.  My defense didn’t do it because I still had revisions to make, and the act of filing may have been the most anticlimactic, since the person who received my paperwork did not seem to care that I had just completed seven years of intense study at her institution.

Maybe it is the lack of some kind of symbolic passage into my career as an assistant professor or maybe it is the fact that I’ve been busy preparing for the beginning of the semester, but I still feel like a graduate student teaching a few more classes.  Maybe the realization will come with my first-ever adult-sized paycheck, but I suspect that it will actually come at some moment that isn’t particularly special.  I remember walking down the hallway of my college dorm room and being struck by the realization that I was a college student.  Maybe someday I’ll be struck by a similar realization about my new role.  Either way, it will sure be nice to get those adult-sized paychecks.

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Students descended upon campus today for the first time since I’ve been in residence.  It was strange to see a small, quiet campus transform overnight into a small campus buzzing with activity.  I am really looking forward to getting into the classroom and interacting with these students after eight months of waiting.

Thankfully, none of my classes have what I consider to be too many students.  I was surprised recently to hear somebody complain about having 27 students instead of the expected 22.  I realize that, for a class of that size, five students is a 23% increase, but I cannot yet grasp the idea that 27 students can be too many.  Of course, I’ve been conditioned by teaching years of classes with between 50 and 80 students.  Maybe I need to bookmark this post and read it in a year or two when I find myself acclimated to my new environment and complaining to the registrar about every student over 20.

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I’ve never been too excited about using textbooks in the courses I teach, but I think that a case can be made for their existence:

Sleep AidSeriously, though, there are times when you want your students to have access to a comprehensive overview of the knowledge in a field or subfield.  Of course, textbooks are heavy to carry around campus and cost a lot (maybe too much – I hear this guy drives a Bentley).  Enter the newest member of the Kindle family, the Kindle DX:

The Kindle DX has a 9.7″ screen, allowing it to display pages comparable in size to a traditional textbook.  One of the images on Amazon’s sales page indicates that college students are a target audience.

I don’t think that this is going to cause an immediate revolution in textbook sales, but I hope that future versions with color screens (and maybe even touch-sensitivity so that readers could take notes on the screen) will allow textbooks to become more reasonably priced and much more portable.

See Inside Higher Ed for a more detailed description of Amazon’s deals with three major textbook publishers and trials at six colleges.

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