Student Research Paper Writing

This is the kind of thing teachers hate. No, it’s not the snow driving. Although probably most of us hate that too. And it’s not the Christmas is for kids truth and the scary relatives with too much alcohol.

It’s the “I am off to write a big scary paper on Parkinson’s disease due tomorrow, that I have not started.” That’s what drives teachers crazy. (That’s the explanation for low wages. We’ve all lost our minds.)

One of my students said he stayed up till 1 am writing his paper this morning because it was due today. It wasn’t. So he got to turn it in early and I marked it up and handed it back to him. One paragraph needed a lot of work, but overall it was very good. A solid B at least.

I try to force my students to at least work on the paper as we go. First, they have to turn in their sources. Then they have to turn in their notes. Then they have to turn in a completed outline and works cited. Though they don’t have to write the paper exactly as the outline, I explain that the outline, when done correctly, will help them know what parts of their paper they need to either beef up or trim down. And I offer a pre-grading read and mark up of their papers if they get them done two class periods before they are due.

I build in as much get it done as we go as I can and I reward those who do it early with help.

Some of them still turn it in the week after it is due, but I can’t help that. I’m not writing the papers for them. Though I do brainstorm with them, suggest websites when their papers are weak, and offer options when they’re stuck. But no, I’m not writing them. I hope they are, though.

Problems with Wikipedia

I’ve never been terribly impressed or discouraged by Wikipedia’s quality of writing. It’s a basic (read grade school and middle school) encyclopaedia. If you are looking for something more substantive, you might be able to follow the links on the web. Or you might have to look elsewhere. I don’t recommend Wikipedia to my students. My sons use it often for their own perusal, but not for school.

The Guardian has an articleon Wikipedia’s accuracy from experts.

Sorry, I don’t remember how I got to that article. One of my regular blogs sent me there, though.

The Mindset of Today’s Students

 Computers are not just “technology”
This is true for middle class students and above. I found my lower socioeconomic students needed help integrating computers into their lives. (Or just learning to type.)

 The Internet is better than TV
I would agree with them here. The internet is available whenever I am.

 Reality is no longer “real”
This is not a mindset of students but a result of postmodern philosophy. I disagree with it and I argue against it in my classroom.

 Doing is more important that knowing
Some things are more important to do than to know. It certainly doesn’t help the person choking if I know the Heimlich maneuver and don’t do anything.

 Learning resembles Nintendo more than logic
Hmm. Fun, fast, involving… I certainly would prefer that they thought that.

 Multitasking is a way of life
This I doubt. I had students (high school, but still) within the last five years who complained because we had literature and grammar and vocabulary all in the same class on the same day. It was too many disparate subjects. They couldn’t handle it.

 Typing is preferred to handwriting
Since up to 20% of a grade can be lost due to poor handwriting, I would certainly agree with them. And as a teacher, it is far easier to grade typed papers than handwritten ones.

 Staying connected is essential
To what or whom? Tinto says that students need to be connected to the university/college in order to stay in school. So I would think getting our students connected and them staying connected would be good.

 There is zero tolerance for delays
Er, no. I think they have plenty of tolerance for their own delays. They just don’t want anyone else to be slow. True? True.

 Consumer and creator lines are blurring
I can buy, therefore I can make? Hmm. Ron was talking today about designers. He said there are three levels. The highest can create. The second highest can appreciate, even things they don’t like themselves. The third can appreciate what they like. BUT the second group tries to become the first. Perhaps this is what he means?

(Jason L. Frand, “The Information-Age Mindset: Changes in Students and Implications for Higher Education,” Educause Review 35(5): 14-24, Sept.-Oct. 2000.)

Via Danielle Mihram’s Creating an Objective-Based Syllabus.

Less Work, Higher Grades

As a college teacher, I found this article interesting. It said people are learning to work the system to get the grades. It also said that freshman are drinking less.

However, the more interesting section was the comments. Lots and lots of comments.

My favorites were the ones about going through the quizzes afterwards (Which students were complaining about that?) and the curve (I gave that same lecture.). The ones on drinking were also interesting though.

Wow, there were a lot of comments. I even made one.

Class-Based Value Differences

taken from JZ’s work, part of the whole. She said she doesn’t want her name on it yet. (And she still said that in 2007.)

Another Cultural Diversity Issue in the Classroom

The often unspoken personal hierarchy of values drives decision-making, and student responses to education. If we are to retain students from homes with generational poverty values, we must understand conceptual barriers to success. Community college teachers must plan strategies to optimize strength and bridge differences in order to release hostility and build trust. Understanding does not connote tolerance of unacceptable behaviors, as one of our unstated missions is to help students function positively in an academic and /or business environment dominated by middle class values.

From Melvin Kohn (1969) is this gem: “the essence of higher class position is the expectation that one’s decisions and actions can be consequential; the essence of lower class position is the belief that one is at the mercy of forces and people beyond one’s control, often beyond one’s understanding.”

In other words cause and effect obvious to middle-class may not be visible to persons from generational poverty. Middle class persons may label lack of action by persons from generational poverty as a personal deficiency such as “lazy” or “unmotivated” or having “low self esteem.” Persons from generational poverty may view middle-class community college culture as hostile and untrustworthy.

Possible scenario based on value differences across classes:
Teacher: “Come and ask me if you have problems.” (Values achievement)
Student has problems but never comes. (Values politeness and conformity, feels powerless over destiny)
Teacher labels student failure to ask for help as personal deficiency (Values self direction).
Student views teacher as hostile and drops class (Values relationship over achievement).

Poverty and Education

Found an interesting entry at brad’s blog on blog-city. He was talking about the Michigan U affirmative action policy. He had a good argument for something else, instead. A poverty-based initiative. I thought his arguments were cogent and interesting, as were his comments afterwards.

Poverty is not inherently a negative factor in education. It is the culture of poverty that makes for poor education.

My family was far below the poverty line when I was growing up, but my parents always read to us, took us to the library as often as we finished our books, and emphasized school to us. I have a PhD. My brother has a LlD. My baby sister is working on her MA.

My father's family were farmers and often below the poverty line for income, although they always had food to eat. He has a LlD. One sister has a PhD. One sister is a CPA. They all have good educations. Because those were emphasized.

A friend pointed me to a great site about the difference between middle class teachers and the lower class students they are teaching. It talks about how the middle class values independence and initiative while the lower class values belonging to the group and not making waves. It is essentially a description of why it is hard for the poor to get a good education. It is because their culture is against it.

This entry is no longer available, because the author took it down. I have a copy of the information sitting on my computer, though. But I don’t want to publish it, because it isn’t mine.

Short Rant

I said short, so here goes.

Teens: They have a Zeus complex, in that they think they’re gods. They’re immortal. They can be whatever and nothing can “really” touch them. It’s scary what they do, thinking they’ll be safe or not thinking at all.

They also tend to be “on stage” all the time. They think everyone is looking at them particularly. Each little flaw will show up on a billboard somewhere. Really, except their close friends and worst enemies, no one is even noticing, unless they’re a school leader in some way (athlete, honor roll, newspaper editor).

Students: They think that school is a product they buy. You know, I paid my money. Where’s my A? What do you mean I have to come to class at least half the time, stay awake, and actually do some work?

I love teaching. I like students who are trying to learn. They don’t even have to be particularly good students. I’ll take a C student who is struggling to stay afloat over a smart aleck A student any day in any class. Just ’cause you have an A doesn’t mean I am impressed. It means you did A work. You can still be a jerk and I can know it. Believe me, I am not deaf and dumb just because I am old. (Well, older than you are.)

Finals: Be There

Finals for college fall semesters were this week, also next week for some folks.

I gave my final at the usual class time, since mine is a weekend class. I brought doughnuts. They’re not very nutritious, but the sugar rush can help you when you’re needing to concentrate. (Think I read about that on Reuter’s this week. Schools doing poorly on state testing were giving better breakfasts and lunches on testing days because it helped and they needed all the help they could get.)

Our room got moved, since they had ACT testing that weekend too. But I was there early and there were clear signs about where to come.

Two of my students got there about 15 minutes late. One came strolling in half an hour late. (I’d called them all at home on my cell phone but couldn’t reach them. I wanted to make sure they hadn’t overslept.)

It’s rude to come to class late. It’s rude to come to a test late.

It’s also not too smart. Tests are timed and sometimes you need all the time you can get. How much brain power does it take to figure that out?

It also irritates the teacher. That’s something like irritating your boss on the job. It’s just poor planning.