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Not-yet-jaded students

  • This past semester "spring 2015" I taught a course that I have been teaching since 1999.  I saw the need for a web design course in communications, PR, and business students, so I developed the course and have been the only teacher of the course since day one.  Well, I have tweaked the course and my teaching on a regular basis - almost to a degree that I felt I was doing something wrong if I had to improve the course so frequently.  However, I was informed by a seasoned colleague that improving your course on a frequent basis is the making of a good teacher.  Putting that concern to rest, I still had one that has been problematic since the beginning - possibly the beginning of time.  What was the issue?  I could not seem to get my students to read.  Reading "to" my students was out of the question, switching textbooks to where I had textbooks that had more pictures than words was the next route. (I can only imagine some readers saying, "really? why would you do that?")  The books with images and text still didn't work as the students were using the images to get around ALL words.  This was difficult to understand because most of my students were Juniors and seniors (sometimes I would have a sophomore) -- NEVER did I have freshman in this course though.

    Well, I went back to lecturing and almost omitting out-of-class assignments - afterall, they weren't going to be accomplished by more than 35% of the students anyway.  Yet, this did not work.  How about omitting the textbook completely, save the students some money, and teach it all in class?  I tried that in 2013 -- nope, not the answer!!!  Soooo, I did what I wanted to do in the first place.  I required a textbook, nearly 750 pages, almost 95% text, and then provided the students with an "agreement contract" that said they had to read the book to pass the course, that must attend 90% of the class sessions in order to pass -- these are among other items.  After reading the two page contract agreement - they signed it and turned it in on day one.  

    Interestingly enough, when I implemented this, I also had eight freshman in the course -- I definitely didn't know where the course was going to go with this new "feature."  Did I omit the fact that the class only meets once a week for three hours?  Yes, this is important to the matter I am sure.  After the first assignment, which I am used to receiving on our LMS the hour before it is due, I was shockingly surprised when I received six or seven of the assignments by the next morning (after class) - which meant they were about 5 and half days ahead of the deadline.  Even more interesing and surprising was the fact that every submitted assignment was from a freshman and all were 'A' quality.

    This went on the whole semester.  The juniors and more specifically the seniors were the students that missed class most, didn't understand -- later to discover that they didn't read the textbook -- and the freshman always read it and have the least difficulties.  So -- my question - thought - or whatever you would like to call it is this, "are the freshman just not jaded yet?" Not only did the freshman do their work -- they did it quite well - here is one the student's websites developed in the class (just to give an example -- and brag a bit 

    I am curious and eager to hear other's thoughts on the matter.  


  • Melissa  Hudler
    Melissa Hudler "I am just seeking to explore the factors that appear to be consistent." This has the makings of an interesting Scholarship of Teaching and Learning research project and article. I didn't think of this at the time of my first response, but maybe...  more
    June 5, 2015 - 1 likes this
  • C. Sturgeon
    C. Sturgeon Awesome -- I'm not completely familiar with the site, but if you can tell me where the survey is uploaded to and when that would be great. I really appreciate you sharing this tool with me.
    June 5, 2015
  • Julie Gunshenan
    Julie Gunshenan I have lots of first and second year students who do not read. I am not sure why they do not read, but I think it is because no one read to them when they were little, so they never learned to enjoy reading. Michael, I liked the plan with 90% attendance...  more
    June 15, 2015
  • C. Sturgeon
    C. Sturgeon Julie, thanks for the comment on the blog post. The 90% attendance is for their survival - yet the seniors seldom recognize this. They feel that they have arrived (I guess) and no longer need to attend a class all the time in order to get the content. ...  more
    June 15, 2015