Friday, May 3, 2013

Student Success is Our Responsibility. Well Fuck Me. Today's VidShizzle from U of Southern Florida.

This video was put together by our--no joke--Office of Student Success (headed by the Vice Provost for Student Success) and sent out to all faculty. Because, you know, students have nothing to do with student success: it begins and ends with the faculty (who are, apparently and inexplicably, both "facilitators" of students' education yet also somehow solely responsible for said education).

I'm personally appalled that the university is working so hard to shift all responsibility for learning onto the instructors: if my students don't come to class, don't do the work, don't get As, don't graduate in 4 years, it's all MY fault. So let's absolve the little buggers of all responsibility for their own educations and see how well that works out for us.

- Rick from Ruskin


  1. I watched it, and now I feel ill, and dirty. I need to go outside and breathe some fresh air.

    See, sometimes I think I could get a job at a place like that, and at least live somewhere nice. But, clearly, it would require a lobotomy.

  2. Well, this just makes my fucking day.

    There's about six seconds of actually useful information about teaching - role playing, getting students to teach each other (because they sure as hell don't listen to me) and stuff like that is known to work. Got it? Good. We're done.

    They pile on so much bullshit that my office stinks from its metaphorical, virtual presence within that video.

    Dear God, this is why I am happy to work at a school that lacks the resources to waste on such an insulting, demeaning, stupid, embarrassing and obnoxious video.

    By the way, I thought the proverb of tell me, show me, do me, blah blah blah was Chinese. The math prof said it was Native American. What gives?

    I have a proverb that I'm fond of that didn't make it into the final version. Wonder why.

    1. "Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I’ll remember. Involve me, I’ll understand." What gives?

      Thanks for the fun little research topic, Ben. I just googled this proverb and learned:

      It's from Ben Franklin (3 sites, 2 different versions of the proverb, no references).

      It's from music educator Carl Orff (2 sites, same version, different from Ben's, no references).

      It's from a Chinese proverb (3 sites, 3 versions, no references).

      Note that of these vague and/or incorrect attributions, none says it's Native American wisdom.

      The most credible and detailed information came from*, where Robert Frost, a NASA engineer and instructor, says he researched the origin for a class he was teaching. The rest of this comment is in Frost's own words:

      The quote comes from the Xunzi.

      Xun Kuang was a Chinese Confucian philosopher that lived from 312-230 BC. His works were collected into a set of 32 books called the Xunzi, by Liu Xiang in about 818 AD. There are woodblock copies of these books that are almost 1100 years old.

      Book 8 is titled Ruxiao ("The Teachings of the Ru"). The quotation in question comes from Chapter 11 of that book. In Chinese the quote is:

      不闻不若闻之, 闻之不若见之, 见之不若知之, 知之不若行之

      It is derived from this paragraph:

      Not having heard something is not as good as having heard it; having heard it is not as good as having seen it; having seen it is not as good as knowing it; knowing it is not as good as putting it into practice. (From the John Knoblock translation, which is viewable in Google Books)

      The first English translation of the Xunzi was done by H.H. Dubs, in 1928, one-hundred and thirty-eight years after Benjamin Franklin died.

      *Robert Frost,

    2. It's a long way from
      "Not having heard something is not as good as having heard it; having heard it is not as good as having seen it; having seen it is not as good as knowing it; knowing it is not as good as putting it into practice"
      to "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I'll remember. Involve me and I'll understand."

      The original put the responsibility squarely on the student to hear, see, know, and practice something!

      P.S. I like your proverb better anyway, Ben.

  3. Rubbish like this is one reason I'm no longer an academic. I quit because I couldn't stand all the malarkey.

    The "office of student success" is just one more contribution to the bureaucratic bloat that's infested post-secondary institutions. The place I used to teach at had lots of money coming in through tuition. There was never enough available to pay the instructors properly but there was more than enough to set up services such as this.

    By the way, the engineering prof shown in the video is an idiot. He's clearly never been out in the field, worked in a design office, or set foot on a shop floor. If he tried the sort of nonsense he spouted in any of the places I used to work at, somebody would have accidentally on purpose dropped a hammer on his foot.

  4. In the movie "Heartbreak Ridge", Clint Eastwood's character tells the young marines that, when faced with a problem: "You adapt, you improvise, you overcome." I seem to remember something similar when I was an undergrad nearly 40 years ago and I know that was expected of me as a grad student.

    Is it now forbidden to expect that from students?

  5. If it's all my responsibility, I'd like more money.

    And if it's all about me doing the hard work, can't the students just be left to mill around in the quad? I mean, why trouble the dears.

    1. That's essentially what the place I used to teach at was like. For years, I was convinced that the sole requirement for graduating was to register as a student.

  6. Fuck me, indeed. We started getting an office like this sending people around to faculty for one on one sessions. It's a litany of "here's why you're failing to help our students succeed" bullshit.

    Everything I get told here is I have to meet the students where they are.

    I always want to say, "Where, in 11th grade?"

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Student success starts with the student. One can't succeed if one doesn't want to or doesn't put any effort into it.

    3. I had a come-to-Jesus conversation with an instructor many years ago that was the opposite of "meet them where they are."

      She was from a high school background (teach to the slowest student in the class) and I, as the "touchy-feely student services 'nice guy'" had to explain to her that she was teaching college now. There is an expected minimum level of performance and the instructor sets the bar; those who clear it Pass and those who do not Fail.

      This is true of introductory as well as advanced courses. If you can't function and perform at a minimal expected level it is not the instructor's duty to "catch you up" and "make it easy for you to be successful."

    4. My last department head firmly believed that I should teach to the slowest student in my course. According to him, that person would be persuaded by his or her peers to get their act together.

      In the workplace, if one doesn't meet the minimum requirements of one's job, it's out the door. Since I was supposedly preparing my students for industry, I taught accordingly. Unfortunately, I often got into trouble for it.

  7. There is a nugget or two- role play/practicing scenarios (in appropriate majors) and, from the History prof- assembling a problem solving "tool kit" and "...(forcing) them to think about what something means." Of course, then he drops the ball later by espousing "...hearing what they want and then conceptualizing courses that retain vigor/rigor...but also go to the place where they are most compelled to be" No. Just ... No.

    It is impossible to "make it interesting" or "save them all" and "solve all their problems" (my translation) for each and every student. Which brings me to-
    The math instructor who obviously skipped the professional development seminar back in 1997 about "learning styles." My philosophy falls closer to "Heartbreak Ridge" quoted above rather than accepting "learning styles" as unflappable Truth.

  8. Sadly, this almost perfectly encapsulates the self-of-steam remediation I was recently required to endure. (Full post being prepared.)

    When I was an undergraduate, I was fortunate to ride the wave of increasing minimum drinking ages. I was legal at 18 and stayed that way as the age rose to 21.

    I began my career teaching grades 7 - 12 as the self-of-steam movement was taking hold. I was caught up in the lunatic swell of "serving the student" which propelled me now into undergraduate and graduate level teaching.

    You can take a guess as to which wave was more beneficial.

    1. Looking forward to that post, A&S (and perhaps it will provide some catharsis for you).

  9. Wow--so basically, I take this as permission for me to show up to get them to figure out how to learn on their own. That's how I choose to interpret it. Here are the materials, figure out how to role-play the professor's job.

  10. Well, hey! All that diversity and I still didn't see myself in this video: an overweight, out-of-shape, middle-aged, white guy with grey hair.

    Since the video didn't include me, I think I'll ignore it. In my class, student success will be the responsibility of students.

  11. I honestly had been looking at teaching there. They offer more money for the same work. After this, you couldn't pay me enough.

  12. Surely the teachers in this video must have been forced to make this video by their evil student/Dean kidnappers!!!!!

  13. It just occurred to me what all this "student success" business is all about.

    It's like climbing Mount Everest. I, as an instructor, wasn't supposed to teach them how to get to the summit with things the way they are, along with all the associated hazards. I was supposed to lower the mountain to the height of a gopher mound, build a yellow brick road completely enclosed under an air-conditioned glass arch, and hold their hands as they gingerly step their way to the top. When they reach the end, I was to shower them with endless praise and adulation at their outstanding achievement.

    That's not education. It's babysitting.

    1. To climb Mt Rainier, you have to pay a guide service that has basically a monopoly on the mountain. They teach you basic climbing skills on day one; at the end of the day there's a test, and some people are cut. Those who pass go for the summit climb, but even then there are no guarantees you'll make it to the crater. Of course, the fee is not returned.

      So mountain guides are more serious than adminiflakes: lives at stake and all that. No, I think the student success babble is just elementary marketing: come here and pay the fee, and we'll give you the piece of paper at the expected time regardless, and even make you feel good while you're at it; no talent and little sweat required.

  14. Peter--This video is exactly what should have been expected when "students" became "customers."

  15. When I was interviewed for my teaching job in the late 1980s, I remember saying similar things to those expressed in the video. I was quite idealistic, thinking back to when I was an undergrad and how I thought it a privilege to attend a post-secondary institution. It meant one was special as, when I graduated from high school nearly 40 years ago, few people went beyond Grade 12, at least in the town I grew up in.

    I had absolutely no idea what lay in store for me because I thought that my students would have been like me, eager to learn and ready to work hard. I'm convinced that my former employer deliberately took advantage of my idealism and used it as a way of avoiding responsibility for letting in the dullards and hooligans I was often required to teach. Many of them made the residents of "Animal House" seem enlightened and disciplined.

  16. The odd thing is that a lot of what individual faculty members describe doing in the middle of the video is high-quality teaching, and has at least the potential to put considerable responsibility for learning on the students' shoulders. Removed from the framing by the "student success is the faculty's responsibility") education proffie at the beginning, I think we'd be willing to cheer at least 3/4 of the approaches described (or at least recognize them as responsible, thoughtful, pedagogy). Like Dream-Killer, I find myself wondering what some of the faculty members included in the video think of the end product, or the philosophy promoted by it.

    That said, the video definitely embodies a major problem in education today: not only the transformation of students into customers, but also the substitution of "success" (which is all too often measured by metrics that have little to do with actual learning) for "learning."

    It's almost enough to make me nostalgic for the days when a number of flagship state Us had very affordable costs (a student really could cover his/her tuition, board, and expenses by working full-time all summer, perhaps supplemented by a part-time evening or weekend job during the school year), but also fairly high flunk-out rates. I'm mindful of the indefensible barriers to entry (race/ethnicity, gender, sometimes religion) that existed at that time, and of the forms of privilege that even relatively impoverished students enjoyed, and I'm all for support for 1st-generation or otherwise underprivileged college students, and second (and third) chances for all (perhaps after a suitable break for reflection/maturation), but I have to wonder whether a system that made college more affordable but also more rigorous didn't work better.

  17. I sat through 2 days of department meeting in April. Much of it was worrisome, but not for the reasons the folks presenting their findings thought. It worried me because it sounded to me like my department is taking on (without being asked) the "student success" mantra. We have 3 levels of hamster writing: non-degree, elective, and core credit. Many who come to us and start at the NDC level are not "succeeding" all the way through. Why this is so is not known, but I have a few ideas. We are competing with local four-years and the flagship for a shrinking pool of students. The students we are getting come from the bottom half of their graduating class. Many are very underprepared for what is expected at the college level, which is why we have NDC math and writing courses and learning and study skills courses. Unfortunately those courses are NDC, and have a "negative stigma" attached to them, so students don't want to take them. So they go ahead and sign up for courses they have no hope of passing, and they fail, and they drop out. And somehow a chunk of my department has decided that we aren't doing enough to help them succeed.

    My biggest problem with the mentality in the video (despite the good suggestions) is that the students aren't responsible. Many are, but just as many are not. My drop rate this semester is 30%. Those were the students who thought that passing was a matter of showing up, like it was in high school. Students who begged to turn work in well past the deadline, because "they let us do it in high school."

    I can work with the ones who put in some effort, but I cannot do anything for the ones who aren't willing or able, for whatever reason, to engage with the process.


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