Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Return of Professor Facepalm.

This is going to be brief, as I am still recovering from finals-grading-induced shakes, but, seriously, since when is ten pages too long for a senior level class?

Admittedly, it's an interdisciplinary studies class, so I have some people who are, ahem, not very well-steeped in the humanities, but seriously? Is this what we have come to? Mind you, some of them just turned in ten pages of word salad...

Prof. Facepalm

PS - Hi, everyone! Nice to be back!


  1. It isn't, or at least it shouldn't be, but if you do it again, you're probably going to have to scaffold the hell out of it -- proposed topic, workshop to narrow topic, proposed bibliography, annotated bibliography, outline, draft paragraph, workshop on draft paragraph (including citation check), full draft, full draft conference, etc., etc. If the class is small enough, a lot of this can be worked into class discussions, and/or modeled through work with already-scheduled readings (because they don't do discussion without a lot of guidance either, right?), but it's still a lot of work. If the class is too large, and/or you have too many other classes, then -- time for an alternative assignment, or a choice of assignments? Depending on the goal(s) of the class, that can actually be a valid choice.

    But yes, a college near-grad in any field really should be able to write a ten-page paper (and should have written enough short-to-medium-sized ones that this isn't really such a challenge. In fact, a ten-pager is medium-sized by my lights.) But there are all kinds of incentives for those teaching earlier classes not to assign longer papers (or papers at all), which leaves you with the choice of trying to teach them how to do it at the last moment, or pass it on to the grad-school proffies.

    Great system, huh?

    P.S. Good to see you back!

  2. I teach an introductory hamster science class and I assign a three page, single spaced paper. They hate it! The grading can be painful when you have over 50 students total, but I think it helps some of them in the end. Unfortunately, if you can't spend enough time on the papers to give good feedback (which may or may not be considered) then is it worth the time? Probably not.

    1. Depends on just how much you're trying to help them, I guess. Students don't actually absorb -- or even read, in most cases -- detailed feedback, unless it's a draft they're being graded on (and even then, not always), so I limit my feedback to the most important structural and logical issues mostly.

      And a writing instructor friend once said that writing's like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Make 'em read, make 'em write, and they'll get better at it. So even without a lot of feedback, it's at least exercise.

  3. Finding enough sources to copy/paste a whole 10 pages is haaaaarrrrrd. But as Jonathan's friend says, the more they do it, the better at it they get.