Saturday, February 28, 2009

Is It My Memory,
or
Have Student's Changed?

Actually, this thought didn't evolve from my experience as a paddling instructor. Sure, I have continued to watch others and learn new teaching techniques from them, but the lessons are still pretty much as they have always been. I am talking here about college.

I remember going to college (and med school). I remember going to lectures, taking notes and then studying those notes and the assigned text book. When the time came, I took quizzes and exams (by the thousands), and used my wrong answers to guide my future study. Today, as one teaching 3 college courses (some to premed students), I am flummoxed by some things I am seeing.

1. Students insists that notes and/or power points be put up on our web site well ahead of the lecture (I do the work).

2. They come to the lectures and furiously write notes, but the lecture (and slides) are the ones posted days before the class!

3. A student e mailed to say that she felt my exam was unfair. First, she lectured me, she had been taught that there should be 4 multiple choices, 2 of which should be obviously wrong. She insisted that the student who "knew their stuff" would be able to decide between the two remaining answers. Huh? Wait, she has more to say.

She didn't like that my questions were in two columns as "I could see the other column out of the corner of my eye, all the time." Never mind what she thought about my multiple choice answers that included "a & b are correct", or "all of the above are correct." I cannot, in my deepest fantasy, imagine ever saying that to one of my professors (we had no e mail back then).

4. In one class the students are required to write a paper...a lousy 3-5 pages. Well, you would not believe the grammar and spelling errors. Sentences, that when read out loud, sounded like someone from Mars trying to convey an idea in English, and doing so horribly. More over, many of them use semi colons all over the place. I was taught that to use a ; is to brag about your writing abilities (I really don't see much need for the damn thing, any way...now I am going to hear from the editor). They simply cannot write. My generation wrote much better, and I mean while in high school.

5. They want gimmicks like hand outs and "games" and "tricks" to help them "learn". And on it goes.

So what's up here? Are the high schools dumbing down their standards? I know a lot of people graduate college. I wonder how well prepared they really are to take on a job. I have more faith in a student who has taken an intro to sea kayaking course to save me than I do in some of these scholars.

Padde safe...

DS

12 comments:

steve said...

I have heard the same complaints about students not being able to string a sentence together from numerous sources all over the world, looks like were in a downward spiral. On the other hand more and more people are taking up kayaking so I guess it balances out in the end

Mine's said...

High schools focus on making sure everyone feels good about themselves and no one feels like a failure. So if a student can't read, write or spell it doesn't matter. All that matters is whether or not they feel good about who they are.

Michael said...

Your observations about students are common ones these days, it's sad to say. I'm currently transcribing some letters written home by my great uncles from the front during WW-1 and I'm astounded at their writing abilities even in such trying conditions. Those boys knew how to write! I'm not sure how young people today will communicate effectively...

JohnB said...

Move over Andy Rooney, Silbs is after your job!

Great piece Silbs!!!

derrick said...

See, my writing skills are pretty much par for the course!!!

Oh well, I think you are right though. Mainly because I don't think people are required to think deeply enough to need much of a vocabulary these days. Like the line goes, "You'll miss too much these days if you stop to think..."

Silbs said...

Great comments. Thanks to those who wrote off line as well. I worry about our future and those of my grand children.

victoria said...

Today's students are part of the "media" generation. They are used to sound bites, quickly changing images , and everything presented as entertainment. As someone who works with student teachers, I also see some poor writing in lesson plans. When I mentioned poor grammar and spelling to one individual, he shrugged and said " yeah, I know. I suck at writing'!
I still think that good writing skills are not too much to ask of any college student.

DaveO said...

Did you ask that one woman (girl?) what she might do if ehe encountered something that didn't fit her neat little 'form' in real life? And how gutless is it to send an email rather than make an appointment and talk to your prof face to face? Thats the part that makes me despair.

Silbs said...

More great comments. The girl who sent the e mail lacks what we call critical thinking. She probably can memorize stuff and recite it back on a simple multiple choice question. When she has to extrapolated or integrate the information to answer a complex question, she is lost. Not all who know understand.

wideblueyonder said...

Sad to say your observations are all too common here in the UK. I have the pleasure of teaching some fantastic students who are motivated, self reliant and what I would truly term independent learners.

Unfortunately there is also a wealth of students who expect to be 'spoon fed', are not prepared to put any time or effort into tasks/assignments set either in class or as homework/coursework.

As schools are judged so much on results there is continual pressure to improve results and to an extent, teachers are judged on their results. Therefore staff are putting huge amounts of time into chasing and cajoling students into doing work that should have been done during the lesson/as homework.

To an extent, we perpetuate this issue by ending up lowering our standards and spoon feeding through fear of students failing and us being judged on those results. I await the brave sole who makes a stand and says no - they either buy in or fail and let them learn a valuable lesson.

Having taught in schools for 13 years, I find it depressing to see this shift in 'self reliance' and motivation within students. I have spent a of time beating myself up over it - is it my teaching style, the tasks I set that are not pushing the students enough, not exciting enough to engage them. However, sadly, this makes little difference and the fact that so many teachers I respect and value make similar comments makes me believe it is the change in student approach/attitude.

The answer, I believe, will involve a period of pain as we stand up to 'spoon feeding' and be prepared for a number of students to fail. This may seem harsh but I would prefer to equip these young people with the skills they need for life in the real world.

Silbs said...

Well said, and very much in line with what other faculty members have told me. I guess we are, after all, two countries separated by a common language :)

JohnB said...

this post certainly has generated the comments--and I'm going to make one more . . .

Wideblueyonder's comment from acorss the pond also applies to the current economic crisis. Were spoon feeding some of these companies, when perhaps we should just let them fail. Unfortunately, what we see in the economy is that the top continues to be rewarded for failure. Their greed has and continues to bring havoc to those they see as expendable.