Varying Grammar Standards

The Chronicle has an article on (Dis)Liking Standards:

The fact that we don’t have such national standards often leads to confusion among our students. I can’t count the number of times I have handed back a set of papers only to have students come to my office and say, in genuine puzzlement: “But my teacher last semester never said anything about that” or “But that’s not how my last professor told us to do it.”

I don’t doubt them. I know perfectly well, from hallway conversations and department meetings, that I have colleagues who emphasize aspects of English composition that seem trivial to me, and who barely touch on things that strike me as essential. I would imagine that to be true in other disciplines as well. Do we do a disservice to students by not speaking more openly to one another about such discrepancies, and not establishing common standards to which we all aspire?

What does that mean for our students in the classroom?

Awareness of audience, I tell students, should help determine everything from the content of your argument to the choice of vocabulary in any piece of writing.

That’s a lesson that we should help students understand about their experiences in our classrooms as well. If we, as faculty members, conceive of ourselves as distinct audiences to which each student’s learning performance is communicated, then our differing expectations become a more easily comprehensible and justifiable norm for students.

Indeed, the ability to recognize and respond to individual professors may even be one of the most important lessons our students can learn.

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