December 21, 2004

Perspectives (No. 1)

Sometimes it's exasperating when students have a particular way of thinking about something, which results in issues for me to deal with, repeatedly. I don't blame them for thinking in that way, after all it probably seems quite natural from a student's perspective, but repeatedly having to deal with their misconceptions is tiring. After all, I was once a student, so I can (I think) imagine what it's like from their perspective, as well as being able to see it from my current lecturer's perspective. However, they can't see it from mine, they have no idea what it is like to be a lecturer, so the onus is on me, not them, to resolve the issue. For example:

Student thinks:

I'd like a better idea of how much I have to write for this report I have to hand in for the course that this lecturer teaches on.

Student says (to lecturer):

How many pages should I write for the report?

Lecturer hears:

I'd like to know precisely how many pages you want for the report, and then I'll slavishly aim for that number. If my writing comes out under that many pages, then I'll stretch the report with a lot of waffle, and if over, then I'll cut lots of important bits.

Lecturer says:

It's difficult to give an exact number of pages. Some good reports will be short, some good reports will come out longer. Try to write as much as what you have to say takes up. Be concise, rather than padding it out with waffle or miniscule details, and don't leave out important parts of your writing. Use the marking scheme as a guide.

That gives another example above, too. The student knows full well which report for which course is being asked about, but merely refers to "the report", either assuming that the lecturer will know precisely which one is being referred to, or not even bothering to make that assumption because it's so obvious to the student concerned. The lecturer, on the other hand, may not know which course the student is referring to, because the lecturer may be teaching on several courses during the teaching session, one or more of which might require report writing, and if the classes are big, the lecturer may not be instantly able to recognise the student and which course the student is studying.


At 1:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what they say: "A paper should be like a skirt; short enough to be interesting but long enough to cover the subject material".

There is some merit to giving a length, though; any paper will naturally not include every action, thought, statement of the obvious and explanation of course material. An approximate length gives one an idea of just how extensive such things should be.

At 4:50 pm, Blogger Lossy said...

Ah yes, the skirt quote. I'd forgotten that! Thank you for the reminder.

You're right that an approximate length may be helpful. Sometimes I add to the above by saying something like "Whilst I'd like to be helpful and give you an approximate idea of the number of pages to write, I could say something like '8 pages' to one student and it wouldn't be enough for what they had to write, and 8 pages to another student would be much too long with a lot of waffle".


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