Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rainbows, lollipops to sprout from trees shortly thereafter

Another long, long week, and . . . oh, wait, you mean it's not over yet? I will get back to posting soon.

In the meantime, here's "Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes":

“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

Okay, we've all seen that scenario. But at the University of Wisconsin, there are special seminars for first-year students that are designed to combat this attitude:

The seminars are integrated into introductory courses. Examples include the conventional, like a global-warming seminar, and the more obscure, like physics in religion.

The seminars “are meant to help students think differently about their classes and connect them to real life,” Professor Brower said.

He said that if students developed a genuine interest in their field, grades would take a back seat, and holistic and intrinsically motivated learning could take place.
I'd like to think that this is true and that the people at Wisconsin are tracking the program to see if students develop a keen interest in "holistic and intrinsically motivated learning" instead of grades. As long as the "external rewards" of med school, business school, and jobs are on the line, however, do you think that concern over grades will take a back seat to "intrinsically motivated learning"?

[Updated to add: I just saw that Female Science Professor has posted about this, too.]


Fretful Porpentine said...

Yes, I think you're right that this program won't have the desired result, at least not for the vast majority of students, but I can't help feeling that it's worthwhile nonetheless -- in an "ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp" sense. (Excuse me; thanks to the Brit Lit class I have a head full of Browning today.) Most freshmen have rarely or never encountered anyone who expected them to be passionate about learning for its own sake, and I think exposing them to authority figures who do expect passion is valuable in itself, even if they're being bombarded with contradictory messages from the rest of the system.

Maybe it's not a message that most students will take to heart immediately, or even before graduation; maybe it's even a message that they should be cynical about; but I believe that it's still a message they need to hear.

undine said...

I think you're right, Fretful Porpentine. I guess I'm not cynical about the process, because enthusiasm and a belief in the students' desire to learn goes a long way toward causing those traits ("if you build it, they will come"), but I'm skeptical about the results. In other words, it's worth doing even if the results don't bear out the optimistic view of the people who were quoted in the article.

Bardiac said...

I'd also wonder how students won't worry about grades when some programs allow entrance based solely on grades (our nursing program does that, for instance).

Rent Party said...

Well, what I'd like would be for students to realize that actual learning is the best way to improve grades.

What I tend to find is that they want to avoid learning the material, yet make good grades. Some even assert that this is the most efficient way to make good grades!

undine said...

The idea is probably that they'll become entranced by the subject matter and that good grades will follow, Bardiac, but the two don't necessarily have a correlation. A student can be passionate about a subject and totally disorganized about completing assignments, for example (tortoise and hare syndrome).

Rent Party, that minimalist approach is what drives us all to despair. I'm sorry, but if a student asks me "what do I need to do to get an A in this class?" and isn't referring to creativity, excellent writing, and a thirst for knowledge, she's wasting her time.