Words of Wisdom from a Senior Colleague

I’m done with my general chemistry course for the semester. It has been both a frustrating and rewarding semester. A student’s success in freshman chemistry has more to do with what attitude they bring to the table than it has to do with innate ability. Students that develop good study skills and self-discipline can easily survive a general chemistry class, and my section was set up to provide a framework for developing these skills. We had weekly tutorials, we assigned and actually graded the homework (a rarity in large general chemistry sections), we had many extra office hours, we had a group of excellent teaching assistants. We had all the bells and whistles we could think of to help the students make it through the class.

The amazing thing to me is how resistant some of the students were to the extra features of the “special” section. Everyone has had students like this: they sit in the back of the lecture hall, listen to their iPods during lectures, do the minimum number of problems, never speak up in tutorials, never come to office hours, complain about the difficulty of the tests, never pick up their tests to learn from their mistakes, and always always always blame the instructor and teaching staff for their grades at the end of the semester. During a discussion about these students, a senior colleague dropped this ruby:

Education is the only commodity that the consumer wants less of than the producer is willing to provide.

[tags]education, chemistry, pedagogy[/tags]

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3 Responses to Words of Wisdom from a Senior Colleague

  1. Nice way to explain what can make teaching frustrating. At the university level, I think students are adults and we need to treat them that way. If they don’t take advantage of the learning opportunites you give them that is really not a problem that you need to solve. But it still can be frustrating.

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  2. Sean says:

    “Education is the only commodity that the consumer wants less of than the producer is willing to provide.”[emphasis added]
    Therein lies the core problem – “consumers” don’t deserve to be students. They clog the classrooms and slow everybody down, metaphorically sitting with mouths agape waiting to “consume” the information much like a “McDonald’s” “Happy Meal”.
    Learning is a participatory process, not a commodity that you “buy”, as much as lazy people looking to “buy” their college degree might want to disagree..
    (Personally, I’ve reached the stage where I find being referred to as a “consumer” to be outright offensively condescending.)

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  3. Brad says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your observations. I was failing 60 percent of the class at the time the evaluations were given due to the reasons you listed. Outcome? The worst and lowest marks I’ve ever received even though I didn’t change a thing from previous semesters.

    And it’s getting worse.

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