December 9, 2008

Confusing Requirements

By: in Teaching and Learning, Teaching Professor Blog

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Jennifer Moore, an assistant professor of elementary education at a small teaching-focused university in Alabama had several “intellectual awakenings” when she recently took three graduate courses simultaneously. Her institution needed a reading specialist and she looked on taking the required courses as an opportunity. One of the three courses was offered online; the other two in the more traditional lecture format. Here’s how she describes one of her “intellectual awakenings.”

“I regained an awareness for the tremendous demands with which students are faced regarding course expectations. Students enrolled in multiple courses must comply with expectations involving formatting, attendance, assignments, and assessment policies for several professors simultaneously. Committing each separate professor’s requirements to memory and perfectly executing each is quite challenging and takes a tremendous amount of organization and proactive research. As professors know well (and often complain) many students seem unable to meet our expectations fully or sometimes at all. Revisiting the role of student made me acutely aware of the magnitude of requirements (which are sometimes counterintuitive) that students must meet for each professor throughout the course of one semester. As a result of this new awareness, I consider each assignment more circumspectly and always question the practicality and feasibility of my requirements with renewed vigilance.”

These reminders of how things look from the student side of the classroom are so important. We forget that when first encountered a lot of course requirements don’t make much sense to students. They seem more like individual idiosyncrasies (what the professor wants) than valid criteria. The implication here is not that we demand less of students or that we coordinate requirements (although maybe a bit more consistency wouldn’t be a bad thing). I think it means more patience as students attempt to meet our requirements and more willingness to work with them on understanding what justifies these standards we seek to uphold.

—Maryellen Weimer

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LGD | December 9, 2008

Formatting of papers and cover pages became very easy at our college. All classes are to conform to APA style formatting, and an APA handbook is part of the required texts of more than one class.How do we have consistency in the handbooks? The college created our own.How do we work toward consistency in class assignments and such? At the program major level. All classes are expected to achieve the same class outcomes, so all the Math classes and Accounting classes [for example] are covering the same material with many of the same assignments. So we may as well have grading rubrics in common, too.How do we make sure we are getting much the same quality of teaching? Trusted faculty are responsible for obseriving and grading the other faculty in their departments. Samples of graded work are collected and assessed against the preferred standards. Coaching of faculty is done by these lead instructors to get everyone up to our standards.All this, and yet each class instructor has plenty of freedom for delivery of the topics and how to help students learn. Best practices are then shared with the peers.

debrennersmith | January 3, 2009

I appreciate your post. My son is a senior in High School. He is only taking one class at the high school and taking 9 at the Junior College (5 first semester and 4 second semester). As he figures out the Junior college, it is tips such as these that I appreciate sending to him before he starts at his college experience in the Fall. http://writingeverydayworks.wordpress.com


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