Posts Tagged ‘in-class writing’

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Mid-course correction

posted: 3.22.13 by archived

Despite snow in the forecast, it’s spring break here and time for mid-semester evaluations, of both my students and my course/myself. Typically that initiates, for me at least, a period of glumness that can last until end-of-the-semester adrenaline kicks in.  The statistics are grim: about 10% of the students still registered for my courses are not showing up for class and another whopping 40% or more have slipped perhaps irretrievably behind in coursework. For all of my talking and thinking and writing about the excitement of course design, it is again the issue of student persistence that’s occupying my thoughts these days.

Last week a student said to me, as if to explain her failure to turn in the previous two assignments, that none of her other classes required homework. When I asked how this could be, she acknowledged that she did look over the PowerPoint slides her teachers provided just before exams, but that was all of the out-of-class work required to earn her a slot on the Dean’s List. She asked me to predict her final grade in the course, to help with her decision of whether to risk hurting her GPA or to withdraw from my class.  I can’t get her out of my mind. 

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Habits of Mind: Persistence

posted: 7.6.12 by archived

In my plan for re-focusing my comp class, I’ve saved for last the one that’s hardest for me to grapple with and also most crucial (in some ways) for my students’ success. In many of the classes I’ve taught, between 20 and 30% of the students either disappear without officially withdrawing or continue to come to class without turning in any (or many) assignments. I look back at the report I’ve cited earlier (“Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing”) to copy out the definition of persistence: “the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects.” Many of these students had the ability to pass the class, but something gets in the way of their completing the work of the course, or sometimes of even starting it.

I’d like to be able to poll them to find out why this is so. In particularly bad semesters I sometimes ask students to write an anonymous page about how they assess their progress in the class and, if they’re not happy with how they’ve been doing, what’s been going on to interfere. Pens fly, and the mood seems to be one of eager confession. Generally the resulting pages speak of difficulties balancing schoolwork and the rest of life (my students often work at least twenty hours a week, and many have family obligations as well) or of chronic problems with procrastination.  In my more insecure moments I worry that it’s something about me or how I’ve taught the class, that I haven’t designed assignments that are sufficiently engaging, or that assignments are too difficult for students to approach. [read more]

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