December 9th, 2008

Confusing Requirements


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