May 17, 2005

'Dr. Nanny' Professors

Last time I checked, I am matriculated in a graduate level program at a fairly respectable institution of education. So why do I keep running into these Dr. Nanny type professors? Who am I talking about? Professors like the two that have e-mailed me their syllabi for summer/fall courses.

Prof 1: Class meets once per week for two hours. At each class students are required to have written a one page paper in reaction to the week's assigned reading. (This assignment is in addition to two research papers, one to be 20pgs & one to be 30pgs - to be accompanied by class presentations)

Prof 2: Class meets once per week for two hours. 48 hours prior to each class meeting students are required to have submitted two questions regarding the week's assigned reading.

I am shocked and appalled by these requirements. No, they aren't difficult and they could easily be completed without much additional effort. I object to these requirements on pure principle. I am an adult in a seminar where I expect to learn and discuss with my peers. I am not an undergrad taking a class because the university said I have to. I chose to go to grad school and I expect to be treated like a capable adult with good decision making skills. If I don't do the reading for class, my participation will indicate that. I don't need a professor to check up on me any more than that. I am responsible for my grade and my learning so let me make my own decisions about how I choose to go about achieving them.

I see the same things happening in undergraduate programs around the country as well. Friends that have not yet graduated are coming to me with professors that are asking for similar 1pg assignments twice or three times per week. It just drives me crazy. Why does the education system insist on holding a student by the hand? University level instructors should know by now that if a student can't manage to learn the material on his own, he's not going to. They aren't doing anyone any favors. When's the last time your boss held your hand that closely? Because submitting questions for the board meeting 48hrs in advance is such standard practice...

As far as I'm concerned...Let the students figure it out and if they fall on their face, they fall on their face...

Who knows that the real reason they like to check up on their students is... maybe they have no confidence in their ability to motivate students to adequately care about the subject... maybe it is their way of checking to see if they are actually getting through to the students... maybe they are insecure about their ability to lead a discussion and must have it planned prior to the class meeting... maybe they just have a power trip and know that they can make the students do it... maybe they are just unreasonable pricks...

Maybe I'm not taking your classes... I want a seminar, not nap time with the nanny.

Posted by Princess Cat at May 17, 2005 10:26 PM @ 10:26 PM in Grad School // Permalink

You already know why they do this, you stated so yourself:

"Let the students figure it out and if they fall on their face, they fall on their face..."

That's not allowed to happen any more. These students have to pass, no one is allowed to fail. You see, in today's society, if a student receives a failing grade, it's not the student's fault, but the teacher, the school, their parents, G.W., ANYONE but the student.

It has finally just reached the upper echelons of schooling.

Posted by: Ogre at May 18, 2005 02:39 PM


Posted by: Joatmoaf at May 18, 2005 06:37 PM

I've been on both the giving and receiving end of these in the past two semesters (I just finished classwork for a Ph.D. and I teach at a small private school), so I guess I feel obligated to defend some of this.

I have students in one of my intro classes this semester writing weblog entries twice a week (remember this is a summer class) to react to the chapters they are reading. Now, this is not a recap of the chapter, but a reaction that shows they understand how this material relates to their chosen field. The fact that this is 70 percent of their grade makes it more than just "busy work."

While it's possible to ascertain whether someone is achieving these higher levels of learning (as per bloom's taxonomy - gad, I've had way too much ed-education) through the discussion time, it's also possible to miss that. I've been in seminars with eight people and 2-3 people did all the talking for the length of the seminar.

And while it's convenient from a professor's standpoint to say "either you get it or you don't" (it would make my job a lot easier), it's really irresponsible as the professor to adopt that attitude. My job isn't to lay something out on the table for whomever to pick up, sink or swim. My job is to use whatever techniques I have at my disposal to ensure that you as the student are able to thrive in the environment you'll be heading into. "Sink or swim" doesn't really do that. One of the tricks educators use to do this - to ensure that you're getting the material - is the "read and react" paper.

Now, having said that, I also think you can go overboard with this stuff. When all you're doing is making students write every week to meet a quota, then it gets tedious.

University level instructors should know by now that if a student can't manage to learn the material on his own, he's not going to. They aren't doing anyone any favors.

But that's not always the case. Sometimes, the additional "stick" of a deadline will motivate a student to keep on top of studies that she wouldn't ordinarily (it has helped me several times over the last two years, although I cursed under my breath as I was doing it). And it's not always a matter of "learning the material on his own," either. If you could learn the material on your own, you wouldn't need professors, would you?

The first seminar I had was a class on teaching communication in higher ed. We had guests come in and discuss material with us, we had wide-ranging discussions, and we also had several "reaction" papers. It was also perhaps the most enjoyable class I had outside of a law class where the professor ranted and raved about president Bush (only because I got to watch his veins pop out :-)

Sorry, I'm rambling now. My short answer: I agree with you to a point. I'd be more ticked about the two research papers. I had one class this semester where I had four research papers and I thought it was going to kill me.


Posted by: bryan at May 18, 2005 08:44 PM