In Which I Rant About Grades: Journal #3 (PIDP 3100)

Quotation #1: “. . . tests and grades are anathema to andragogy, which assumes adults are capable of self-evaluating their own learning” (Merriam and Bierema, 2014, p. 57/58)

Objective: I picked this quotation because I vehemently disagree. It basically encapsulates my problems with andragogy. While an adult (and, really, any student) remains capable of self-evaluating their personal growth as an educated person, they are not experts in the fields of composition or literature. My experience in the composition classroom suggests that students are not able to objectively and accurately judge the quality of their writing for three reasons: first, most feel that their writing is stronger than it is; second, they don’t understand how writing can be objectively evaluated (students often complain about the perceived arbitrariness and subjectivity of grading in English courses); and third, they believe that simply completing the assignment should earn them an A (see the blog posts Avery and I wrote on entitlement). Tests and grading thus remain necessary to evaluate a student’s progress and, when used appropriately, can help a student learn how to evaluate their own work prior to submission. This requires developing clear assessment techniques, including detailed rubrics, and discussing grading strategies and assignment guidelines with students. This quotation affirms what I learned in PIDP 3230 this past June: a course’s evaluation plan must be aligned with course outcomes, and it must be responsive and sensitive to student needs. Therefore, while I disagree with the quotation’s oversimplification of grading and testing, I do see value in the statement’s underlying principles

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The Educated Person; Or, Why I Teach — Journal #2 (PIDP 3100)

Category #2: “[A]n educated person is one who has learned how to learn . . . how to adapt and change” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 31).

Objective: One of my primary (and, perhaps, idealistic) goals as an English instructor is to teach students how to think critically about their world. I want them to leave my class with the tools they will need to engage with and adapt to the challenges of the world around them. Merriam and Bierema’s (2014) understanding of the educated person encapsulates what I think of as the purpose of higher (or continuing) education. While the discrete skills and discipline-specific content learned in class remain important, the development of higher-level thinking skills represents, for me, the true legacy of one’s education. Moreover, the ability to learn, adapt, and change speaks to the relevance of a humanities (and social sciences) education. In an article defending the liberal arts (Sherlock, 2014), Simon Fraser University president Andrew Petter observes, “humanities and social sciences skills are becoming increasingly valued in some of the countries that are becoming major investors in education because they do bring creativity, problem solving and civic and global knowledge into the equation.” Ultimately, whether a person attends university-level humanities/social sciences courses or undertakes an informal program of learning, the process of learning contributes to the development of a flexible and critical mind, and this mind, with its ability to learn, change, and adapt, will, in turn, contribute to the continual development of society.

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Two Heads are Better than One: Working with a Learning Partner

To read more, see Trends and Roles: An Introduction,Part One (‘But I need an A’: A Reflection on the Trend of Student Entitlement), and Part Two (Understanding the Attitude: New Insights on Student Entitlement)

From Flicker user

From Flicker user

Avery and I did not use Skype to work on our assignment since our offices are right beside each other. Instead, we met to discuss the articles with which we wanted to work, and I showed Avery how to build a blog in WordPress.

Working with a learning partner was natural for me since I view teaching as a collaborative practice and I already turn to Avery for pedagogical advice on a regular basis (and vice versa).

For this particular assignment, the learning partner model was helpful because it allowed us to discuss the assignment, resolving any lingering questions, and share our expertise. For example, I use WordPress in my classroom on a regular basis, so I was able to share that knowledge with Avery, saving her time and frustration. Avery, on the other hand, shared her understanding of andragogy and pedagogy with me (I had been struggling with these concepts), helping me work through my confusion. Because of this conversation, I now understand that my role as a college instructor requires a synthesis of andragogical and pedagogical techniques. It’s not either or.

Since I am someone who likes and needs to talk through my ideas before I write, the discussions that Avery and I had were crucial to my success in this assignment.  And I think this contact was especially useful for me given the online environment of PIDP 3100 (which is also the first online course that I have ever taken).

I am a huge fan of collaborative learning and digital pedagogy (in fact, I recently co-wrote an article about it). I think that it recognizes student expertise and allows students to understand their work as part of a broader conversation. This project certainly encouraged me to think about my work in that way, and for that I am grateful.

Understanding the Attitude: New Insights on Student Entitlement

To read more, see Trends and Roles: An Introduction,Part One (‘But I need an A’: A Reflection on the Trend of Student Entitlement), and Part Three (Two Heads are Better than One: Working with a Learning Partner)

After reading through the articles I selected and discussing this issue with Avery, I have come to a new understanding of the role that adult educators play in addressing entitled behaviours. As mentioned in my previous post, many of the strategies associated with andragogy (especially clear and explicit instructions, the emphasis on relevancy, etc.) also help instructors deal with entitled students. This is not to say that adult learners are entitled, far from it. Many of my adult learners (who I often identify with mature or older students) lack the sense of entitlement that I see in my younger students. This division between what I am calling young adult learners and mature adult learners is something that Avery and I discussed when we met to go over this assignment, Because we teach students who are fresh out of high school along with returning or mature students, our teaching methods require a combination of pedagogical and andragogical techniques. Consequently, it makes sense that Lippmann et al. recommend what I would now consider andragogical techniques when dealing with entitled behaviours.

I am, however, surprised by some of the findings that Avery summarizes in her blog posts. Specifically her observation that “Ciani et al., (2008) reported greater entitlement in senior students than freshman students” in their second study. Personally, I have not encountered greater entitlement in senior (or upper-level) students, though it has been a few years since I taught upper-level classes. I have, however, had senior students challenge my approach to citation, claiming that they were taught differently in the past and consequently, my marking was unfair, which I guess is a form of entitlement . . . I dealt with this by pointing them to the standard style guide for the discipline.

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‘But I need an A’: A Reflection on the Trend of Student Entitlement

To read more, see Trends and Roles: An IntroductionPart Two (Understanding the Attitude: New Insights on Student Entitlement), and Part Three (Two Heads are Better than One: Working with a Learning Partner)

From “A Sense of Entitlement” on Indian Link. Interestingly, this author addresses issues related to teacher entitlement, suggesting that this issue isn’t limited to millennials.

Defining the Trend

Avery and I chose to explore the trend of student entitlement and the effect of entitled behaviours on the classroom. My selected resources are a mix of popular newspaper and blog posts on the topic, such as Richard Alleyne’s article for the Telegraph (2014), which demonstrates how the media report on this trend, and academic resources, including “Student Entitlement” by Lippmann et al. (2009), which discusses the trend of student entitlement and provides suggestions for how educators can approach this issue in the classroom.

The articles I read (and much digital ink has been spilled on this topic) tend to identify the rise of entitled students with the rise of the so-called millennial generation (those born in the 1980s and 1990s). While many millennial writers have pushed back against the labels applied to them (see, for example, “Millennials in Our Time” from The New Republic, and “A Hilariously Harsh Guide to Millennials in the Workplace – And a Millennial’s Response to It”), recent studies demonstrate that entitlement is, nonetheless, a very real issue in today’s classroom. Lippmann et al. (2009) suggest that the educational system of the late-twentieth century bears some responsibility for the development of entitled behaviours in millennial students. The authors note that some teachers have moved away from grading student errors and providing challenging assignments in order to protect student self-esteem (p. 200). The resultant success (or lack of failure) leads students to expect and/or feel entitled to success (or good grades) based on the effort they put into the assignment as opposed their ability to master or successfully perform a particular skill. Significantly, this sense of entitlement has lead to a measurable shift in student attitudes towards post-secondary education.

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Trends and Roles: An Introduction

To read more, see Part One (‘But I need an A’: A Reflection on the Trend of Student Entitlement)Part Two (Understanding the Attitude: New Insights on Student Entitlement), and Part Three (Two Heads are Better than One: Working with a Learning Partner)

For our trends and roles assignment, Avery and I decided to research the issue of student entitlement. Our interest in this topic comes from our experiences teaching first- and second- year courses at the college level. And we are not the only ones to notice the rise of entitled behaviour in our students. In a personal essay for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Elayne Clift discusses her experience with entitled students at the graduate level. She writes:

Increasingly, students seem not to realize what a college degree, especially a graduate degree, tells the world about one’s abilities and competence. They have no clue what is expected of them at the higher levels of academic discourse and what will be expected of them in the workplace. Having passed through a deeply flawed education system in which no one is paying attention to critical thinking and writing skills, they just want to know what they have to do to make their teachers tick the box that says “pass.” After all, that’s what all their other teachers have done. (Let the next guy worry about it.)

The experience Clift describes is equally true of undergraduate students, who come to college out of high school unprepared for the rigour and expectations of university studies.

In our respective blog posts, Avery and I reflect on what we have earned about this growing trend of student entitlement, how we can prepare to approach this issue, what insights we have gained about our role of instructors in light of the cultural shift towards entitlement, and what we learned from each other.

To access all the links for this assignment, check out the resources page!

— Caley

The Method to my Madness: Lesson Planning

Check out my resources page for to a convenient list of all the sites referenced below.

Positive Learning Environment (Component Three)

I am interested in this topic because I strive to create a learning environment that encourages risks and mistakes. I already do this is by owning my mistakes, showing students that everyone is human and makes grammatical errors sometimes. One of the areas I want to work on is creating a positive learning environment for my adult learners, who are often vastly outnumbered by “traditional” college-age students. This site from the LBS Practitioner Training provides some suggestions for creating an engaging classroom environment for adult learners. Being more conscious of the difference between adult learners and college age students will improve my ability to better address the needs of all of my students.

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A Quick Introduction

I created this blog for PIDP 3100 (Foundations of Adult Education) as I work towards my Provincial Instructor Diploma through Vancouver Community College. I am a English Instructor at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook BC, where I teach first and second year English literature and composition.

I recently completed my PhD in English at the University of Victoria. While at UVic, I was involved with various digital projects, including the Victorian Poetry Network and the Database of Victorian Periodical Poetry, which inspired my interest in digital pedagogy. I love bringing technology into the classroom.

My main literary love is the Victorian period, and I wrote my dissertation on mid-Victorian periodical poetry (so, poems no one has read for 150 years). For more information on my academic background, please see my CV.

This blog will primarily house my assignments for PIDP 3100 at first, but I hope to use it as a space to reflect on my pedagogy beyond the course.

A slightly more fulsome introduction is available here.

— Caley Ehnes