Times are now very different, for better or for worse. There are a host of additional activities and assessments to enhance learning, keep students engaged, and motivate them to work: tutorials, weekly problem sets, class blogs, randomly timed in class quizzes, mid-semester tests, on-line reading quizzes, clickers, ...
In some courses students even get marks for just showing up at lectures and/or tutorials.
I give one example, that is not unusual. At one Ivy League university in the freshman chemistry course, attendance is monitored by requiring students to register responses to questions with their clickers. Students game the system by taking turns going to class with a large collection of their friends clickers and registering responses on their friends behalf. Graduate student TAs are then asked to police this practise, something which they are not exactly enthused about.
I have very mixed feelings about all this. Here are arguments for and against.
These activities do enhance learning.
If we don't require students to jump through all these hoops
- too many students will fail and I will be blamed for poor teaching
- students will complain because they expect them, especially if they are paying.
- I will get poor student evaluations and not get promoted or get tenure.
The administrative workload of "teaching" a course becomes onerous and overwhelming.
Assigning assessment credit to many of these activities is dubious because many are a poor measure of student learning and understanding, particularly those that are amenable to group work.
Students should to be treated like adults and take responsibility for their actions. They are not in high school anymore. They may have been micromanaged in the past by their parents and (private) school teachers, but they need to grow up.
An important part of higher education is developing self-discipline and learning how to learn. Spoon feeding and hand holding does not help this.
Just like indulgent parents, if we pander to the immaturity of students we are doing them a great disservice by not giving them the opportunity to (or forcing them to) grow up.
The best employers are looking for motivated and disciplined self starters who can solve problems for themselves, take responsibility, and don't need to be micromanaged. University education and grades should provide an appropriate filter and signalling.
I welcome comments.
What do you think?
Should we babysit undergraduate students?