Quote from the “Organization and Markets” blog by a group of professors:
| Peter Klein |
To my colleagues who teach: how do you handle disengaged students? Paul Trout describes them thusly:
They do not read the assigned books, they avoid participating in class discussions, they expect high grades for mediocre work, they ask for fewer assignments, they resent attendance requirements, they complain about course workloads, they do not like “tough” or demanding professors, they do not adequately prepare for class and tests, they are impatient with deliberative analysis, they regard intellectual pursuits as boring, they resent the intrusion of course requirements on their time, they are apathetic or defeatist in the face of challenge, and they are largely indifferent to anything resembling an intellectual life.
I have known a few in my time. The pointer is from George Leef, who also provides this excerpt from Generation X Goes to College:
[B]y and large, students view themselves primarily as consumers who intend to study just a handful of hours a week for all their classes, and who expect, at a minimum, solid Bs for their efforts. . . . In short, they view themselves as consumers who pay their teachers to provide “knowledge,” regardless of how superficial that knowledge might be. After all, how hard should a consumer have to work to buy something?
I have to say there are students like these in my class. I would call myself a fully engaged professor: I spend huge amount of time preparing for each class and use every bit of my effort to deliver what I believe to be important to the students. There are still students who skip the classes (some even for the whole semester), and some would complain about any change I bring into the class.
Here is one example: In one class for group presentation, a student came to me and told me he had not seen any of his team members throughout the semester and he had to work on the project on his own. They did not answer his emails and did not even tell him if they would come to the presentation. While he was presenting, the missing team members came one by one during the class. They did contribute in applauding.
Another example: One day, it was time for group presentation. There were 5 groups in that session. After the first presentation, I learned that there would be a fire-drill in about an hour. At least one group will be affected by the fire drill. To avoid the negative impact on the last team, I decided to hold an auction among the 4 remaining teams. The plan was that I start from awarding 1 extra grade point and seek any group who would take the offer and move to the next week’s session. If there was no one to take the offer, I’ll raise the offer to 2, then 3,… points, until one group takes the offer. The plan immediately got objected by the first team who just finished presenting. “It’s so unfair!” as they say. They did not consider how unfair it was for the last team who would have to take the extra effort to prepare again.
Some professors actually make the situation worse by baby-sitting the students. For example, I know professors who hire professional TAs to “page down” his slides in class. The TA is quite busy in doing things like playing the videos, dimming the lights, etc. The professor would be busy creating flash cards with cartoon stamps on them to award the students who answer the questions. To avoid cheating, they also sign each card when they hand out the cards. When a student skip the class, they would ask the TAs to teach the students in special sessions, and when the students skip the exams, they would allow a make-up exam for them. When the students miss the make-up exam, I know someone who asked TAs to offered make-up make-up exams. Part of the reason is that TAs here are like public goods (air, water), so they tend to overuse them. In return, the students believe they are consumers and instead of learning knowledge, they are enjoying the service provided by the university.
There are of course very engaged students. Some students really deliver excellent presentations and are amazingly thoughtful in answering my questions in classes. They are the reasons for me to do my best in teaching. Fortunately, there are many of them.