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Archive | 4 x 4 x 16 Challenge

Lady in the Classroom?

I have grown to become a great fan of a wonderful movie by M. Night Shyamalan entitled “Lady in the Water.” Bizarre. Different. Odd. Unique. These were my first impressions;  kind of other worldly if you will. But upon reflection, and given time, I found myself wanting to return to this little gem. There was […]

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Pharmacology Scavenger Hunt Assignment

Teaching fundamentals of nursing, I seldom get the “aha” moment. When I taught the second semester students I would see the “aha” moment when students were in clinical and what they learned in lecture finally made sense. Instead of just memorizing information the students were able to apply the information. One of the questions Laura […]

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Café scientifique

Week 2:  Research shows that science scores in the US are low and a personal relationship to nature is lacking. When improperly used, technology can replace experiences in nature, and a litigious society keeps our young people from having frequent experiences in the out-of doors. This impacts health and wellness and one’s ability to engage […]

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To Allow Resubmissions or Not to Allow Resubmissions—THAT is the Question! (William Shakespeare, sorta) – Guest Post

Going to class, studying, reading–TO LEARN.  Not just for a grade, but to actually acquire knowledge and/or skills.  How do I, as an instructor, make that happen?  I’ve been asking that question for almost 30 years of full-time college teaching.  I’ve yet to come up with a fail-safe, satisfactory answer. 
Obviously, “giving As” to motivate intrinsic learning is not likely to work.  (See last week’s blog for my experiment with that strategy.)

Still, I never cease struggling with that question.  If I really don’t want my students to learn, why am I doing this anyway?  (Please don’t evoke the “big paycheck” or “easy job” argument—that will only instigate more inflammatory blogs.)  Obviously we do (I hope) want students to learn, or we wouldn’t still be here.
I have come up with a few conclusions to the dilemma of student learning (some of which are still tentative).  I’ll offer up this one, for what it’s worth.

Q:  How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

A:  Only one.  But the bulb has really got to WANT to change!

Students are like these metaphorical light bulbs.  They have to WANT to learn. 

But I can’t “make” learning happen.  No teacher can.  Learning is truly an “inside” job.  I’m not sure I can even “facilitate learning” (although I REALLY like that idea!).  Perhaps it’s safe to say I may be able to “facilitate learning” for those who really want to learn.

I can’t change anyone, nor can I make anyone learn.  So my cynical self says, “Why bother?” 

My idealist self responds, “Because it makes a difference to some!”

One of the challenges of teaching at a Community College (or, in my experience, at any undergraduate institution) is that there is a wide array of motivations as to why students attend.  There are a number of teaching [entertainment] strategies to engage students—for those who really don’t want to be here.  Many of these are excellent.  If students don’t have the internal, intrinsic motivation to learn, by all means let’s do what we can to “engage” them!  But what I want to address here is the “learning” part.

Many  students “don’t get it” the first time around.  We provide reading assignments, lectures, videos and feedback on assignments, but it’s still clear that the lesson we’re attempting to teach, the learning we wish would occur, is not happening.   We assign a grade to that student’s attempt, and that’s the end of the issue.  (“See ya next semester!”)

I’ve come to conclude that—often—I’ve been guilty of quitting too early.  Our “traditional” grading system assumes that if they can’t do the paper right, can’t complete the quiz or exam, can’t conduct the experiment correctly the first time, they aren’t learning (or don’t want to, or can’t).  [An exception to this is often writing instructors who not only permit, but require, revisions and rewrites.  Why do we promote this for English and not for all the other subjects?]

We’ve bought into a mindset that learning is a PRODUCT, not a PROCESS.  And we evaluate students based on that belief.  Often this frustrates the students (especially those with “mixed motives” about attending college, but also those who really want to learn).

An alternative is for me to be a PART OF THAT PROCESS.  What this means is not just giving students feedback, but giving those who really want to learn and improve (for whatever reason) the opportunity to do so.

So for the past few years I’ve given my students the option of redoing almost ANY assignment (within a reasonable time frame—usually a week from when I return it) with no penalty.  I ask them to submit the original, graded assignment with their re-submission (so I can see if the changes were merely cosmetic or substantive).  I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE  them to “think deeper” in their re-do.

This is a totally optional activity.  And I’m very clear to my students this is NOT primarily about the grade FOR ME, but about their learning.  I tell them I’m much more interested in the expansion of their knowledge and skills than I am giving them a bad grade.  Amazingly, not a lot of students take me up on this.  That’s their choice.  But the option is there, on almost every assignment.  In most cases, if students are motivated, I will allow unlimited rewrites until THEY are satisfied with their work.

There is a definite downside to this.   More grading.  UGH.  I LOVE most aspects of teaching, but grading is without a doubt the worst part of my job.  However, more times than not I find that grading re-submissions is quite rewarding. 

Like the metaphorical bulb, it’s definitely FUN to see the light go on.

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