The 2nd blog period

Leaf_Fall_in_Dixie_National_Forest,_Utah.jpgA weekend spent marking the blog, and I am surprised by how much it depressed me. I have research collaborators in four countries who need something from me (yesterday), a family who sometimes want to interact, and a ton of fall leaves to collect. Yet…

…the way to stay sane as a Professor is to focus on the students doing very well, especially those that you can see lifting their game. You believe you are making a difference, inspiring even. And who’s to say otherwise? 

A total of 17 students got an A.  The most marvelous improvement on earlier performance was exemplified by a serious and unprompted investigation into the pros and cons of GM food, and by an evaluation of Carbon Capture.  I gave my first ever extra blog credit for a magic post, as instructed by my boss’s boss’s boss.  Also very thought-provoking were 637, Pom, Macky D’s, Limitless, Love and Pain, Poof, Eyesight, Goosebumps, Infectious Diseases, and Art and Science.  The class was most moved to comment by Studying and Music, and the spectacularly gross revelations about Phone Hygiene.


The other good thing this weekend was that after 24 years of disequilibrium, the universe reverted to the way it should be. I never want to live through a final half hour like that again.
Right, now the depressing part…
Eighteen students did nothing and a further 13 did enough to score a fail mark. A further 9 managed to hit a D. So 40% of the class are excelling at being, well, seriously unimpressive. Groan.  
Then there were 14 with a C, 3 on B-, 11 on a B, and 15 B+.  Most of these students could easily hit an A if they aimed for the rubric ambition of “posts draw on material to make creative and substantive points that extend beyond the material”. In other words, got engaged in some intellectual heavy lift.
I found myself repeatedly giving the same feedback. For many students it was precisely the same feedback I gave them last time. That’s what generates the ‘why bother’ aspect to teaching.  I wonder if many of them actually read my last lot of feed back, or the grading rubric in the syllabus or studied the many examples of good practice and the tips the TAs and I have already posted (links, and above, and just posted). 
Time magazine this week suggests that Americans have had it so good for so long that the new generations have lost the ability to focus, fight and fink [ok, I made the alliteration up]. It continues to flabbergast me that so many students spend so much money to make so little effort*.  I keep wondering what I can do to inspire if big bucks can’t.  What’s the trick to getting students to really challenge themselves?
*Obviously I would be totally delighted to talk to any students who are making a big effort and are not being rewarded.

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