Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Professorial Guidance and Student Autonomy

One of the big-pictures questions I often struggle with when designing my courses is about how much specific guidance I should coerce in my students' study. In favour of a broad exercise of professorial power (i.e., using grading incentives to require attendance, regular homework, etc) is the undeniable fact that students will learn better if they do that work, and that most students are much likelier to do the work if I penalize them for not doing it on a particular schedule. On the other hand, I am also moved by the argument that university students are adults who should be allowed, even encouraged, to make their own decisions about how best to learn. They also often have many more competing obligations than I did when I was an undergraduate, such that requiring a lot of homework, or penalizing missing class, is a significant hardship.

When discussing this issue with colleagues, I find that opinions and practices vary dramatically. Some offer a maximally flexible approach, always accepting work that is completed well after the deadlines (even after the course is complete); others have strict syllabus requirements—treated like laws of nature—that mandate exactly what must be done when.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Welcome 2019

As you'll see below, one of my New Year's Resolutions is to start blogging again. So, first post of the year: New Year's Resolutions. In my line of work September tends to feel more like the start of a year than January does, but there's still something about the turning of the calendar.