Thursday, December 17, 2009

Final Grades

It's a week before Christmas and I am neck-deep in final grades for my fall courses. One challenge is reading papers, especially term papers for the PBJ practicum (PBJ 397), but another challenge is wrestling with the persistent question: What have the students learned? I don't doubt that my students have learned something from their fieldwork or from studying suicide, assisted suicide, and euthanasia (PBJ 377), but that learning is not always demonstrated in their academic work. Can someone spend 15 weeks in a course and still be making the same errors at the end that they did in the beginning? The answer is yes. It's very discouraging sometimes. On the other hand, when you read a paper or essay that shows that a student has learned over the course of the semester, that's very gratifying. It's the season of hope, and at final grades time, hope is very useful.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter Weather

So what will happen today? It's snowing and blowing outside, actually more blowing than snowing. My driveway is plowed. Do I go to the college or work from home today? Do I work from home today or go back to bed? Maybe I should just bite the bullet and drive to the college to work. But, oh, that wind!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Advisement and Scheduling

Lately I have been meeting with students who are preparing to register for their spring courses. This semester I am seeing a lot of juniors who need to meet with their advisor and get a second PIN number in order to register. Next year, those same students will be filling out their Senior Check forms. It's interesting how different students are when it comes to scheduling. Many of them come in with courses already chosen and only need to make sure that they are filling the requirements they need and are on track to graduate. Others come in mainly to check their degree progress and then choose courses based on what they still need to fulfill requirements. These students often have picked out at least a few courses they are interested in. Then there are the students who come in as a "blank slate," so to speak. They need to find out what requirements they have left to meet and have no idea what courses they would like to take. One thing I have learned: If a student says s/he will "take anything that's necessary" to graduate on time, don't believe it. The minute I start suggesting specific courses, I am told right away what subjects the student likes or dislikes. One way or another, we always come up with something.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday in the office

It's not unusual for me to spend some time in my office on the weekends. There is almost always grading to do, and it's easier when there is no one around and no one knows where I am. And on a beautiful autumn day like this, no one in their right mind would expect me to be in the office. I will only be here for an hour or so, but I can grade a lot of discussion responses in an hour when it is totally quiet and there are no other distractions. When you teach online, all of the discussion that is normally oral in the classroom is written and needs to be read and scored. That's my job this afternoon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Today I had to send the Director of General Education a preliminary report regarding assessment of my Intellectual Issues course (PBJ 377, Choosing to Die: Suicide, Assisted Suicide, and Euthanasia). In the report I had to explain how certain assignments in the course meet the learning objectives for the intellectual issues requirement and how I am going to assess them. That means, if I give students an A, B, or C on the assignment, what did they have to know and do in order to get that grade? Thinking about the purpose of the course, the means of achieving that purpose, and how the assignments evaluate whether students are learning what we expect them to learn makes us better teachers, in my opinion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Busy Day Ahead

Here I am in the office, and it's 10AM already and I haven't done anything yet except set up this blog. Lots of assignments to read and grade today, plus a report to send to General Education about my Intellectual Issues course. It's a wet gloomy day, and I am not exactly my usual cheerful self. Oh well, it'll get better. Michele is sick, which is not good. Well, can't keep my students waiting any longer. It's strange to teach exclusively online and have only that connection to my students. That is something I'll probably talk about frequently. Now, to work!