Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 Tips to Help You Become a Better College Professor. From The Onion / HuffPo.

by Galanty Miller

The reason that college professors are socially incompetent is because it takes a socially incompetent person to become a college professor. Normal people with friends and healthy social lives don't want to sit in a classroom when they're thirty-one years old; they want to live adult lives.

Normal people want to have a job when they're twenty-nine years old; they don't want to sit at home doing research for their 300-page dissertation that nobody wants to read. If I'm Tom Hanks in Castaway, stranded on a desert island for years with nothing to do but read your doctoral thesis, I still wouldn't read your crappy, tedious dissertation. I might paint a face on it and befriend it, but I wouldn't read it. ("Wilson! Your bibliography is freakin' 16 pages long!")



  1. "humor?"--best label of the week award (do we have one of these?)

  2. Well, I agree with point 4 (students should make their own review sheets; that can be a useful part of the learning process), and, mostly 5 (even if I'm not good at following up on same). And I've got mixed feelings about group projects (especially since I'm careful to construct mine so that everybody doesn't get the same grade, which means a lot of fiddly work totaling up points for intermediate stages of things and students' ratings of each other and such at this time of year) and online teaching/learning (which I think can be quite effective in the right circumstances, but often isn't).

    But never assigning papers longer than 5 pages? And the emphasis on content alone in this "tip"? I'll not write a dissertation in defense of longer papers (in part because I still have a number of 10-page papers to grade), but this shows no understanding at all of the purpose of college writing (including the whole idea of writing as discovery). And at the simplest level, how are they ever going to learn to handle organizing more complex sets of data, and making effective arguments based on those data, if they only have to write 5 pages. At that length, many of my students will still try to write a 5-paragraph essay (in fact, some of them try to write 10-page 5-paragraph essays, but that's another, if related, problem).

  3. I heartily agree with no group assignments.

    1. Well, I don't give group assignments, but my students treat the opportunity to rework the long problems on the exam as one.

      Generally, I can even figure out who the smart one in each clique is.

  4. No group projects. This, at least in certain topics. Good grief, I am so sick and tired of having at least one person on the "team" who does no effing work. The rest of us have to scramble to make up the loss and the quality of our final work suffers as a result.

    Last year, our three-member team had to analyze a historical question that involved using examples throughout all of human history. So yeah, third guy, we could have used your input. The week before the paper is due, Mr. No-show finally suggests he could "edit" our paper for us. I wanted to edit his face.

    The good news was that our drafts had to be posted on a blog, so the instructor could see our work. The fellow student who also honestly contributed got sick of the whole thing and forwarded all our emails with Mr. No-show to the professor.

    But, five-page papers only? In an advanced class, a 15-20 paper would be necessary to reasonably explore a subject.

  5. The preamble is the kind of ridiculous crap one reads about proffies all the time, and I don't think it's meant to be funny; the writer does believe those things.

    The "recommendations", on the other hand, don't sound that bad to me:

    1- No group assignments. Agreed. I hated them when I was a student. One or two people do all the work, the others freeload.

    2- No assigning papers more than 5 pages in length. Well, what I'd say here is: don't specify page lengths at all. I'm a fan of brevity, idea density, originality. Depending on the topic and the student, that could mean any number of pages. If you don't have a lower bound, the"deep Fs" can be graded in a few seconds.

    3- Teach in the classroom, not online. Completely agree. And in the future I'll refuse to teach sections with more than 35 students.

    4- No "review sheets". Agreed. I've never used them. I don't do "practice tests", either.

    5-Go shopping (wear different outfits). I do that already, I never repeat the same shirt with period less than three weeks. I doubt the students care, though.

  6. I get pinged by our "learning center' people for not doing more group assignments. "Students love them!" they say. (I do about 1 per class per semester.)

    But a sixteen page dissertation bibliography?? phht. amateur. Mine was ninety.

    1. That's definitely wrong, in my experience. Most students do not like group assignments. But well-structured ones do have their place.

  7. Hey! I already do comply with recommendations 1-5! I suppose that means I'm a perfect teacher, but you knew that. ;-)

  8. “But don't blame your professors. They weren't hired to teach you. They were hired to publish scholarly papers and to enhance your school's academic reputation. You're thinking, ‘But I don't care if my professor is a renowned expert in his or her field of study. I didn't even know that this field of study existed before I came to college. Yet if they have no social skills, and they don't have the ability to coherently transfer this knowledge such that we're unable to grasp even the basic points, doesn't that mean college is a ridiculous, insane system?’”

    This sentiment has long bothered me. So, they'd prefer to be taught by people who aren’t experts in their fields? That’s how it’s gone with K-12 education for some time, and you can see where that has gone.

    So they’d rather be taught by people who don’t know what they’re talking about? So in other words, they’d rather be taught by politicians? I didn't think those were so popular, these days.


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