Linda said... I don't believe that this is a skills issue.Currently I am teaching a second year undergraduate course on thermodynamics and condensed matter. To enrol students should have passed a course on multi-variable calculus and a first year calculus based physics course. Yet there are many students in the class who struggle to do basic things like:
The issue is that there are no consequences for writing badly. That student, one way or another (including buying papers), will continue on in his/her education.
When we take this seriously, students will be told "no, you cannot continue on in your education until you improve this skill".
Oh, the horror! Holding students (at ANY level) to a standard. Isn't that unconstitutional or something?
My English 101 writing teacher threatened to fail me unless I improved. My paper was,
- too long ... 5x requested length
- contained too many parenthesis
- contained too many footnotes
- thesis unclear
I made those improvements. Compared to professional writers I know I could improve much more. Still, the professor made her point.
What's difficult to understand here? Fail the student if the writing under performs.
I attended university in my mid-30s. I applied the basic principles operating in most work environments. Those in charge identify areas of weakness and require improvement in their subordinates. And either the worker improves or risks being replaced. Ideally this improvement is done with the cooperation and support of the boss.
- Sketch a graph of a one variable function.
- Find the value of x at which a specific function is a minimum.
- Evaluate a partial derivative of a simple function of more than one variable.
- Keep track of physical units in a calculation.
We all need to improve the quality of our teaching. But sometimes I think the best thing we could do for our students is fail more of them. Furthermore, as one of the comments above notes dealing with failure (or at least the threat of it) is important preparation for life in the "real world."