Thursday, August 30, 2007

Le Sigh.

I'm gonna have to give some students the beat-down about academic writing tomorrow.

Here's a tip: When you're asked to write, say, two pages, and the professor specifies that that means two pages of text, don't turn in one page (with a 5-inch header) and then three lines on a second page. Two pages [does not equal] two sheets. You might not like it, but there is a difference.

Evidently the five-minute lecture I gave on this subject last week didn't take. Oh well.

On the other hand, my upper-level class went great today. I was really nervous going into it, for some reason--more nervous than I've been since the first day of the semester, all of eight days ago. I'd prepared pretty well, but I figured out in my survey yesterday that things actually do go better when I don't stick to a detailed plan. A couple of students asked some good questions yesterday, and we ended up having an actual discussion that lasted 20 or so minutes (about half the class); this was vastly more interesting, I'm sure, than having me work through the text with them in the more Socratic method I'd been using. So for the upper-level class today I decided that I needed to get them into a more topic-based discussion, rather than focusing on explaining what's going on in the text (which could be confusing, but they seem to be getting it) or working through it sequentially. Of course, this meant relinquishing a lot of control over the discussion.... And lo! It worked really well. I also hardly needed to refer to my notes--because I'd taken a lot of time to prep, unfortunately--and ended the class before I'd exhausted my list of things to talk about. Virtually everyone in the class spoke, too, which was a rare and delightful treat.

And, in all fairness, some of the paper-writers in the lower-level course did put in a sincere effort, for which they shall be rewarded. But to the others I can say only this: Your slack does not go unnoticed. Nor shall it go unpunished.

Or unremarked. Tomorrow I'll be lecturing on what constitutes a "page."


Sisyphus said...

Rock on!

I can tell you from personal experience (ahem! not talking about last week or anything) that when you _plan_ to wing it and have it work wonderfully, perhaps because you ran out of time to prep, it never pans out.

But yes, let them carry the class if they want to carry it. And always have a backup plan.

Heo said...

What is it with the five inch header?! Do some people think teachers don't notice that? Have you experienced margin creep yet? This week's two pages have one to one and a quarter inch margins. Next weeks have one and a half to one and three quarter inch margins. And so on until you start deducting major points. Or, or, or...Times New Roman is toooo boooring a font to use, and so 20 point Arial will have to do as a replacement.

dance said...

300 words constitutes a page. Period. No need to worry about margins or font size. Students can write long footnotes and add illustrations--or make a pretty title--without me accusing them of trying to bulk up a paper.

10% over or under may result in losing points, although that's my *un*written rule. I usually translate verbally in class, as students don't think in word count, but word count is what I hold them to. And I ask them to put it under their name.

heu mihi said...

Sis--Yeah, I figure I shouldn't count on my students to carry the class, especially on the days when I *really want* them to. Oh well. Guess there's no way around the over-preparing!

Heo--What is up with that, by the way? Don't they know that some of us tried these same tactics back in undergrad? My personal favorite is the gigantic header listing every possible detail about the student and the course (name, class number, class name, meeting dates and times and places, prof's name)--double-spaced. Very good.

Dance--Hi and welcome! Word-counting probably is the best way to go. The trouble is that I hate receiving papers as email attachments. But perhaps hard copy + email is ultimately the best thing--and then they can use whatever the hell font and margins they want (as long as I can read it, of course).

dance said...

I require both hard copy and email. Occasionally it's a bit annoying, but I find the pros outweigh the cons, maybe I'll work up a post on that.

BUT--Blackboard will let them upload Assignments and let you download a zip file/folder of all the submissions, filename uses their name. This is the Blackboard that didn't use to be WebCT, and my IT people tried to tell me I had to download each one individually, but they were wrong.