Wednesday, September 2, 2015

21st century student-professor relationships

Deficiencies in the following skills:

(1) attending to and understanding directions
(2) being competent enough to fulfill them
(3) getting your own points across clearly

not to mention
(4) general reading comprehension
(5) general writing skills

also affect student-teacher relations.

Below a certain level of competence, certain students may simply not be capable of earning what they consider a decent grade, and, worse, may blame the wrong person (i.e., you rather than themselves).

They'll blame you for unclear directions; for grading them unfairly; for being too negative in your critiques; for suggesting, wrongly, that they missed certain key points; for being unhelpful when you refuse to digest the readings for them; for being disrespectful when you tell them to re-read the directions carefully. If you ask them to verify something or redo something and you don't take an evasion for an answer, they may accuse you of harassment. Often convinced that they're doing just as well as the rest of their classmates, they may accuse you of discrimination--even if they are white and male. (Yes, a student once accused me of being biased against men!).

And, because your evaluations of them are public while their evaluations of you are anonymous, students can be as rude as they like, especially when it's time to rate you. They can be surprisingly rude even in personal emails. You, meanwhile, (assuming you need to take your course ratings seriously) have to tiptoe around their insults and accusations.

Most students aren't like this. Most were rightly admitted by the relevant admissions departments and are competent enough in skills 1-5 to do well. These students are a pleasure to teach and correspond with. Unfortunately, however, what takes up most of your psychic energy are often the one or two that aren't.

Nor is it necessarily entirely their fault: consider the K12 pipeline that was supposed to prepare them for "college and career."


Anonymous said...

I've said, for a couple of decades, that it's time to return to the era of freshman weeder courses; ie the expedited removal of kids who are incapable of, unprepared for and/or unmotivated for college-level work (at my flagship state school, those were freshman lit/comp, math and the sciences). Since so many people today never experienced or heard of the phenomenon, the era of freshman weeder courses was concurrent with the era of college admission limited to the "college-ready" (SATs, coursework - with some wiggle room for grads of small schools with limited course offerings) and prior to the existence of remedial courses. The graduating class was typically 2/3 of the entering freshman class, with wide variations across majors. Engineering, math, math-based sciences, clinical practice majors etc. routinely lost 2/3 of entering students. The ed school, psych, sociology etc. lost far fewer. In addition, many of today's easy majors - recreation management,communication, XYZ studies etc - didn't exist then. (my school's Latin American Studies programs was very tough; fluency in educated and academic Spanish or Portuguese, regional economics, history, geography, literature etc)- designed for future government or private business people.

Of course, k-12 work was designed not only to teach academic material, but to demand sustained attention, planning and organization and study skills. I remember being taught the standard outline format, in 5th grade, with lectures from then on - outline notes were graded for content, format and clarity. This was especially true in the HS college prep courses - because we knew that we would need this in college, along with academic reading, writing and research skills.

momof4 said...

I'd also end the practice of student evaluations. Most are useless because they reflect the opinion of unprepared, lazy kids who are interested in the easy grades.

Anonymous said...

I was always a bit leery of colleagues of who get really high student evaluations. I think you need to be a con artist or politician to do well on that.