Pitfall #4: Expect students to consume knowledge rather than consume…

I admit, I’m prone to the pitfall that undergraduate students want the least onerous possible path to graduation… I teach the capstone for undergraduates in the College of Business at my University. If they have taught me nothing, they have taught me there are two kinds of students — I classify them as “C’s get degrees” and “A’s at any price” — and yes, I share these categories with them, usually to a chorus of chuckles. The A’s will do whatever it takes to get a good grade from me, including but not limited to, arguing and negotiating over the specifics of a rubric and whether or not the textbook uses an active or passive voice in its description of Porter’s Five Forces for above average returns; while the C’s will ignore all attempts at contact unless I include the words “required to pass” in the message.

I’ve adapted by making everything on my course site (the LMS, aka Canvas) as explicit as possible. I’ve created two different levels of detail. I use the LMS to spell out the bare minimum requirements for any assignment including a title, list of check-off items, and a rubric while also listing a “More assignment information” (sample) link to a Google Doc that spells out a summary of all pertinent items, common processes, rubric specifics, and frequently asked questions.

Does this make me a pessimist? Does this make me a realist?

My pessimism is driven by the comments on my $ET$ ($tudent Evaluations of Teaching $cores). My realism is driven by a small but steady trickle of comments from a rarified group of students who thank me for introducing them to realistic expectations AFTER they graduate. Of course, only the first group are counted toward my likelihood of acquiring a contract in the following AY.

So, in a way, this post is a condemnation of $ET$. They are completed by students who have no context for assessing education and do not reflect the learning that comes later when they do know better…

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2 Responses to Pitfall #4: Expect students to consume knowledge rather than consume…

  1. cater says:

    I plan to write about this pitfall too. I also agree with your pessimism about SET. As a new teacher in a new (to me) course in a new (to me) program and discipline, I have found the results so far pretty unhelpful and even anxiety-causing–to the point that I’m not sure it’s the best practice to look at them every term.

    With that being said, I am a big advocate of evidence-based teaching practices and curricular innovation, and I do use feedback from students (through targeted “reflections”) to understand their experience of learning in my course. One strategy that I’m interested in trying for next year is centered on giving students more responsibility to produce knowledge themselves. I’ll admit that I’ve felt insecure about this in the past because of fears that students would review me as “dispensable” if I wasn’t the main producer of knowledge in the classroom context (sage on the stage). But I’m interested in combatting this misconception, and I am willing to have faith in students’ abilities to assess their own learning and to realize that engaging in knowledge production themselves is actually a much more beneficial learning strategy than sitting back and hoping to “absorb” it all.

    • John says:

      Just to be clear… I’m not opposed to improving my course, in fact, I experiment a lot and look for data wherever I can find it to make things better. I have even given assignment credit for providing feedback that I can do something about in a course. I’m reminded of the proverb about leadership… the good leader is when people point to one person and say “she led us”, the great leader is when the people say, “we did this.” I’m sad that SETS are even a thing and believe they distract from other opportunities to do things better.

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