Two things have happened that have caused me to think again about professor-student communications and attitudes, and how they may impact learning.
A couple of weeks ago in the POT Facebook group, I posted this in total frustration, as a response to the student attitudes I mentioned in my last post.
Just an idea…..
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History 111 Online
I was only half-serious. Yet several teachers began to use it as a template for making actual reponses to students, thanking me for the idea and reporting results.
This is because teachers are frustrated. Obviously I understand that.
Then this week Donna Marques posted this video in the POT Facebook group.
I have watched this a couple of times. My gut reaction to the voice of the professor is negative – he sounds pompous to say the least. The student sounds stupid. I try to imagine a student watching this. The “A” student says “duh”. The “C” student says, “That teacher is mean. This video is mean. It’s making fun of me.” But the gut reaction of teachers is, “Yes! This teaches the student about responsibility!”
I have concerns about the affective domain and its impact on teaching. The video enforces the power relationship between prof and student in the discussion of rules and grades. The underlying assumption is that strict rules, and sticking to them, provides an equitable environment for student learning.
I have three problems with this:
1. Students do not respond the same way to this attitude and message. In fact, the type of student for whom this needs to be said is the exact type of student who will resent the message and learn nothing from it.
2. The attitude perpetuates the dependence of the student (and professor!) at a very basic level of rules and obedience. The prof is now playing the low-level game of carrots and sticks, as if we were training dogs instead of educating citizens. At no point can we engage the larger issues of why one should follow deadlines and be responsible. This level of discussion is great for training hamburger flippers at McDonald’s, but not an educated citizenry.
3. It implies that a student will pass the class if they follow instructions. This isn’t true – some students will be cognitively unable to do the level of work required. And we can’t talk about that because of 1 and 2 above have already caused levels of emotion that make such a conversation impossible.
I cringe now when I hear profs say with pride that they allow “no late papers, I don’t care if they’re in the hospital!” or roll their eyes at yet another dead grandmother as an excuse. I’ve already made the point that we need to treat students like responsible adults, or they won’t behave that way. And, as I noted in that same post, I benefit from the fact that other profs are mean.
This doesn’t mean I’m recommending being a pushover. And keep in mind that I’m writing this while I’m experiencing my own crisis about students not following instructions. I have basic requirements for primary source posts – post an image, the author/artist, its title, date and a link. About half of my students refuse to follow the basic instructions, even to the point where I had another student message me this morning offering to help them do it right.
I can repeat the instructions, and I do, in multiple places. I can grade them down, and eventually I will. And sure, I could create a video or use the one above, thinking it’s designed to teach them responsibility.
But all it will do is cause resentment. And if they’re resentful, we won’t be able to get past their badly cited posts, and into historical analysis. I need the students who are cognitively able to do the work to follow me into doing real history - that’s my real job. And they won’t follow me if they think I’m mean.