Monday, June 18, 2012
"Where, exactly, in the assigned reading is the answer?"
This week, there was an ongoing "discussion" on the "Questions Answered" discussion board---the one they use to ask me questions about anything and everything---about WHERE exactly, the information was in the assigned reading. How were they supposed to do the homework if I would not tell them the exact page, in all the huge (about 30 pages or so to skim through) amount of reading I had assigned (and this includes the pages of the stories themselves). I would not tell them, but instead kept referring them to the schedule of readings and assignments and telling them there were supposed to do ALL the assigned reading for this week. No where in here was an actual question on the material, until one of them involved in this asked me to just write out an explanation of the different types of symbols for them, since they could not find the right page. I declined, asking them to tell me what part of the book's explanation they were having trouble with. All this ended with angry proclamations that they (the four or five students involved in this "discussion" were just not going to do the assignment then, since I did not want to teach the material, all accompanied by promises to complain to the Dean that I am refusing to teach my own class.
Waaaaaaa? I just hate people, sometimes. I have 25 students in this particular class. Five or so are no shows entirely, so that means 15 of them just did their work, and probably did it well. But the snowflakes do such a good job of keeping me occupied with crap it is so hard to appreciate the good ones.
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I have this problem with about 85% of 'em. I don't know how to get the THINKING to START. Does the motor need priming? Is there a button I can push? A big of slang I can utter? A post-hypnotic suggestion I can plant? FSM knows that asking a question doesn't do the trick. I feel your misery, Bella.ReplyDelete
The thing is: it's not even the THINKING. It's the WORKING. They don't even want to do the WORK that would lead to the THINKING. The assignments here are not difficult: if the students just WORKED to read the assignment, they probably wouldn't even have questions because the answers would be obvious. But they refuse to do their part and want a link to click to the correct answer so they can then just copy it.Delete
Ovreductd and Bella, this makes me want to squish them like insects.
Here, here! I just finished a course in Hamster-iography and I've been harping on the many different kinds of Hamster beliefs, ways of defining "Hamster," etc. Yet still, at the end of the course, I'm not sure if they understood that their version of Hamster-ology is only one of many. They kept referring to Gerbil-ism as Gerbilicism, despite my protests and down-marking of their grades. It seems they want to know the answers to the questions (or what we might think of as the "right answer" or what we might like) in order to get a good grade rather than to learn the tea party material (could we perhaps make this a listing in the glossary -- LTFM -- as a correlate of RTFS?)ReplyDelete
You may need to just tell them, "I want you to read the stories, look for and find symbols in them and tell me what you think they mean." Remember not to use big words. If you've done that then I have no idea what else to try. Give them the zeroes they earned.ReplyDelete
This may be the dawning of a new science: Brain Physics.
Apparently the first law is: A mind at rest will remain at rest, unless acted upon by an outside force.
Perhaps a few stout whacks with a clue-by-four?
Ugh. For the first time I had a student who simply would not or could not follow the simplest of directions (i.e., put your name on your paper), and then challenged every grade he got.ReplyDelete
I have oodles of these and they make me psychotic!Delete
You may remember my earlier post where I snapped and said to my class, "How do you people make it to class without getting killed?"ReplyDelete
Don't do that. That will make for a legitimate trip to the Dean, though it contains a valid point.
I would recommend emailing your Dean a "heads-up". Be sure to explain that the purpose was for them to read that assignment, and why it would be counter-productive to just tell them where the answers are in the reading. Take a quick glance in at your course curriculum. If it says anything about "critical thinking", then be sure to mention that.
You have a job to do, and that means educating them before making them happy. I've had small groups of students threaten to "Dean-up" on me over the nature of assignments, and it sucks. I believe that combative students like these are the result of NCLB, and they act this way because they have been successful before. This behavior originates in high-school, where the system is compromised by the fear of losing government funding, sue-happy parents, and administrators who don't have balls. I could go on-and-on...
But suffice it to say that your job is to teach your class, not keep them happy or be their friend. Think about it: If they had a choice of using class time productively as opposed to eating strawberry cake, and your job was to keep them happy, wouldn't they insist on the latter?
While there's definitely something to be said about "customer service", there's too much at stake here. Let us know how things go. I hope your Dean has a good head on their shoulders.
Try reasoning first. I say, "Somewhere between page 1 and 210. I'll need you to read the whole thing, because how to find things out by doing research is a skill you need to learn, by practicing it."ReplyDelete
Do -not- say, "Do I have to remind you to breathe also?" I certainly want to say that, since I do wonder it.
It's not easy to get them thinking. As Bertrand Russell noted, "Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so." Don't use a 2x4: you'll break the 2x4.
I read this, and am silently thanking God that my class is at least blended and not fully online. I can address crap like this in the F2F sessions (should it arise--I only have 8 students right now).ReplyDelete
I teach online classes all the time. This is one of the reasons I don't have a an open "ask questions" module. Because as soon as one other student asks the same bullshit question, they get the sense that somehow this authenticates their demand. Then it becomes a tyrrany of the majority situation, except that they forget that my class is not a democracy, but rather a benevolent dictatorship. Disabusing them of their belief in their own power is a tricky thing and best avoided whenever possible.ReplyDelete
I have eliminated all discussion aspects of my online class in part for this reason, and I treat all online classes as basically individual tutorials. The "discussions" are a joke, because most students basically attempt to paraphrase or echo the one good response, expecting to get full credit. Then, if there is a "hang out" room for them, they start questioning every aspect of the course. This doesn't happen as much in a face-to-face classroom, because the online aspect breeds online problems.
Now that you are in it with both feet, the only thing you can do is quietly remind them that they need to do their work themselves, and that you are not asking them to do anything unreasonable. In my summer online class, five weeks long, they have to do a 400-word essay every damned DAY. If you've allowed them to think that a 1-page essay on 30 pages of reading is asking too much of them (even in a full-semester course), you need to rectify that.
Don't be defensive. Never show weakness. Waltz into their little chat and write exactly the following:
I know some of you feel frustrated with the assignments. Believe me, one page of writing on 30 pages of reading per week is not too much to ask of any student. But if you don't believe me, I encourage you to see my chair, or the dean. I'm sure they will each be happy to corroborate the fact that I am not demanding too much of you. And as for not giving you the exact page number where the answer can be found, why do you need me to provide the page number? Aren't you doing all the reading? I can't help but think that the only students wanting the page number are students who do not wish to read the assignment carefully, because if you read the assignment carefully you will find the answer to the question very easily. But if you think that it's not fair that I don't give you the page number, I encourage you as well to bring this concern to my chair and dean, and ask them exactly what they think about this. I will be monitoring this page carefully for further concerns, and I will notify my chair and my dean so that they are fully informed about the situation just in case some of you choose to approach them. In fact, I will give them access to the course so they can monitor your comments as well.
I can tell you that this will make your students shit themselves. They will fucking shit themselves, the bastards.
The brown noise has been administered!Delete
I think you see some of it in traditional courses as well though. A clique will form claiming 'how unfair' everything is. It's just more out-of-sight for a traditional course.
My online students tend to be generally whiny in the discussion area (ie "OMG I HAVE SOOO MUCH HOMEWORK"), but never specifically about the class. The one guy who was got jumped on really hard by a number of his fellows. Instead, they whine individually in emails.Delete
I did post something like this, Stella. And in fact I had already insisted the Dean take a look at the whole discussion so that I could get the first word in. I have not taught an Intro online class in a looooooong time. I actually have good luck teaching 200 level online classes (for the most part LOL). In this class I am definitely noticing the whole problem with the discussions. Augh. We have a "rule" set up by a very dumb "online learning" director that we all have to have that "Ask Your Professor" board, but you have put it in my mind to just blow that off next time, though I have never had any problem with it before. I am very lucky to have tenure, so I really can just thumb my nose at the rules if I want to. To a large extent at least.Delete
It's very possible that the Dean may decide that you are not giving ENOUGH homework. Would like to be a fly on the wall when that happens.Delete
Hi EMH! I may have given the impression here that I am giving less work than I actually am. I think of the homework assignments as "weekly" but since we are doing five weeks in one (in a five week course....okay, more like 3 and a half weeks in one) I give more than one of those kinds of assignments. They were also finding and explaining examples of different kinds of setting, ways of characterizing, and types of narration. So it was really a four in one kind of a week. But all this info was contained in not that much reading, so I did not feel bad for them. As the CC said, just do the work, and the answers are all there and it is not that hard. Just do the work. That's the hard part, apparently.Delete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
This past term, I attempted to address this problem by using a cake as an analogy: I pointed out that if I asked students to make me a cake, those who asked specific questions about the circumstances surrounding the cake (occasion, numbers, and so on) would likely produce a more satisfying cake than those who simply fulfilled the basic request. Through this example, I hoped, they would understand their role in successfully completing class exercises.ReplyDelete
I set up the examples on PPT, with lovely images of a bare minimum cake and a exceptional cake. After discussing the considerations that created the exception cake, I asked the class to identify the determining element underlying the difference (i.e. asking questions). One helpful student volunteered his insight: one cake had icing.
In my evaluations, a student complained that the cake analogy was unfair.
The cake is a lie.Delete
I've used the cake analogy on my syllabi since I first read about it (I think on this very blog). I've had students complain in evaluations that the cake analogy is insulting to their intelligence.Delete
If it made them defensive, then that's a sure sign it made sense to them.
Furthermore, if that's the only thing that makes sense to them, then maybe they aren't very intelligent after all. They insult their own intelligence.
How are these cakes graded?Delete