Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Uh, We Prefer the Dropkick to the F, but We're All About Giving What's Earned. Prof. Meanie Wants Eddie to Understand.

I realized about 5 years ago that most undergraduates, even the brightest and most eager to learn, have NOT been trained in high school on how to avoid plagiarism through the proper quotation or paraphrasing of material...let alone crafting manual-specific citations! And so I teach them how.

I used to spend one day on it. Then I started spending 2. When I started teaching writing classes, I spent a whole week. When I taught a How to Write a Research Paper course, I spent 2 weeks. Then I started splitting it up: Having a week-long intro then a refresher day later on before the big research paper was due. Quizzing them on specifics [e.g. What are the 4 most important items to use when providing internal documentation? etc.]. All the while assigning required reading in easy-to-read style manual-ettes designed for [functionally illiterate] undergrads.

For a significant portion of my classes, NONE of these techniques worked! The sweet, little darlings more often than not invented their own citation style [at the best end], or simply ctrl+v-ed their way to a pastiched paper with varying tone, awkward sentence structures, and a complete absence of quotation marks or bibliography [on the worst end].

So when Eddie says, "punishment should be corrective, not vengeful. I see a lot of instructors post here with the thinly veiled motive of seeing their cheating students suffer." Uh...yeah...I *do* want revenge! I did everything in my power to teach these students how not to do something. Do most of them just go, "Shit! I really fucked up!"? Oh, no...I get vicious screeds on my evaluations about how bad a teacher I am, or I get a student who completely withdraws from participation in class because I so obviously hate him/her [instead of simply assessed what was given me], or I get a student mod who rebels on the final assignment and decides to do as little work as possible.

Eddie needs to accept that on some college campuses, ignorance is the rule. Students get whatever they want from administrations who really could care less about education. Faculty are given mandates by this same administration and then given mixed messages about how to handle situations; I myself worked in a department where I was told to: 1) counter grade inflation, 2) make sure students were prepared to advance past the intro course [and fail those who weren't], but 3) not told how to handle plagiarists even after requesting advice from my supervisor/department chair. This is not just my story, but a common one across the academy.

So, yeah, I *AM* "willing to dropkick students the hardest," as Eddie says. I assess them only on what I taught them, I assign relevant readings and expect them to prepare for class. When students do not do the work, cannot be trusted to be professionally ethical, cannot accept responsibility for their own misbehavior, I will use every power at my disposal [and they are few] to make sure that student gets exactly what s/he has earned...even if it's an F. Since when is an F *NOT* one of the potential grades earned by a student? Isn't it the teacher's job to assign the grade earned in the course?