What are they thinking?

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education caught my eye –  http://chronicle.com/article/Do-Them-No-Favors-Tell-Them/128583/  It begins with a story about a group of students who designed a survey that included this question: “On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree), do you feel that dyeing your hair purple helps your self of steam?”  I laughed and I wondered how they came to such a conclusion.  How have they not heard the correct term? Do we communicate so that they can hear us? Wouldn’t the “hover generation” know the term self- esteem?  Do we take an opportunity like this one to correct students’ thinking and to hear their logic behind “self of steam” o r is it easiest just to chalk this up to naivety?  Actually this cleverly written article has raised many issues to think about as this semester begins.

2 thoughts on “What are they thinking?

  1. Angela R. Linse

    There was a great article about this in the Chronicle ages ago that introduced me to the concept of “eggcorns” (as in an eggcorn[acorn] doesn’t fall far from the tree) and the eggcorn database (http://eggcorns.lascribe.net/). One of my favorites “From the Gecko[get go]” reminds us just how culturally conditioned are students’ ears! Many eggcorns make a funny kind of sense (though I still haven’t figured out the sense of eggcorn).

    The Chronicle article presents an interesting perspective and as Peters’ says the concept of eggcorns provides “a way of explaining mistakes that doesn’t make students feel stupid.”

    Like a Bowl in a China Shop (http://chronicle.com/article/Like-a-Bowl-in-a-China-Shop/46736/)
    08/09/2006, By Mark Peters

    A snippet from the article:
    “One of my students recently described a “mute point” in an essay. My usual reaction to that sort of flub is to write something in the margins along the lines of, “Be more careful,” or “Avoid mixing…”


    The author’s viewpoint is somewhat interesting, as she explores whether this is a ‘perfect mistake’ and how instructor’s should handle this. Personally, I think it’s something that needs immediate correction, even if other students think this is the ‘correct’ or ‘legitimate’ way to express this.

    I unfortunately experienced a freshman 1-page essay turned-in as if they were texting it to me. Could all the other students make sense of it? Probably. Could I? For the most part. But as a professor, I definitely can’t condone or permit this type of behavior to persist.

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