Thursday, June 02, 2005

Hard not to read too much into this one

So I get pulled aside by my department head the other day, between classes. It went something like this:
"The Provost and I were talking, and your name came up. She thought of something you said during the faculty development week about Ethics being a senior level class, and maybe that is why there the complaints.... (pause)
Really it should be a two hundred level (rather than 400 level) class for sophomores... so while we work to change the numbers you should go ahead and think of it that way."

Since then he has repeatedly told me that this was not an indictment of my teaching, or a claim that I was too demanding, or any sign that I was not respected by the administration.

Still.... one my think that he doth protest too much.

Truthfully, I've hardly been teaching this as a "senior" level course. I use an introductory text, I give eight one question quizzes which anyone with passing knowledge of the subject should ace, and I assign two four page papers. Anyone who has a basic knowledge of English and who does the readings should get an A.

But I will admit to getting several students complaining, crying, desperate every semester because they need to pass the class to graduate. I do hate being the gatekeeper... pass my course ot don't graduate. But I would say no more students fail my classes than say English 131 or the required Math classes. But my classes frequently get taking later in the college careers of the students, so instead of taking the class early when they have the time needed to repeat it, they wait until it is too late. Of course, those students who for whatever reason didn't realize that they need to take the class to graduate, are also the students who lack the study skills to do well in a rigorous class. So there is the problem.

The message I got was.. make your class less demanding. (Of course, they have all denied this)
But I am not sure how to do it, and still teach a college level course.
So the latest suggestion is that I drop one of the papers. Again.. two papers is too demanding? Hmmmm. It is hard to know how to progess.

I've been told not to worry too much about this. But honestly... I still am.


At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been talking to a lot of kindergarten teachers lately and I've asked them what they want/expect the kids to know when they enter the class and what they want to see when the kids leave. The last one said she expected them to be able to write a sentence by the time they left. I thought, Hmmm -- I've taught college classes where not all the students could write a sentence.

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't drop the paper. Maybe you could get the stats on other required courses that students don't pass to point out your rate isn't any higher. I don't think your class sounds too rigorous - have you asked other profs what they think? Or checked the details on what accredited colleges are expected to provide their students... sometimes people can't do something, for whatever reason - slacking off, basic stupidity, not taking it seriously - and it should be noted that, for whatever reason, they didn't. They know the rules going in. Sometimes people fail. I think that's normal.

At 8:57 AM, Anonymous Stephen McC said...

I don't see how Steve can win this arguement if the criteria used against his best-laid plans is "someone complained".

Someone will _always_ complain. If you abandon standards in favor of uniform validation of the individual ... well, you'll get a thin stew.

And eventually folks like Steve will be worn-down.

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

holy shit! steve mcc, long time no hear!


let us know what happens, Steve. Nil Illegitimus Carborundum and all that.

At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And so the campaign to dumb-down America continues...

Honestly, must we continue to blame educators for the lack of foresight or personal responsibility of bovine Americans? Steve McC sadly has the right of it- no amount evidence can argue against a complaint from "customers" of the college.

Thank goodness this "culture of complaint" hasn't infected our government!

Oh, wait...


At 2:04 PM, Blogger jeff said...

I would second the idea of asking a few other profs what they would do, given your situation, or even asking the department head what he would suggest--you could get some good ideas while putting it out there (subtly?) that you're not exactly sure you can make things any less rigorous...


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