The College Fear Factor

Just read Rebecca D. Cox's "The College Fear Factor - how students and professors misunderstand one another". The book focuses on junior college students and writing courses, but much of what she says is definitely applicable to other schools and programs.

  1. Students are scared. Scared not to understand, scared not to be able to do the work. Will do anything that seems to work, without understanding what it is that they are doing.
  2. Students have strange expectations - the person standing at the front is supposed to be an authority spouting truth and beauty. They are confused when we don't tell them what the "right" answer is. They don't want to hear the "opinions" of others, they want to know what answer to check on a test.
  3. Critical thinking is something not taught in high schools, especially in the teach-to-the-test schools.
  4. Teachers who use non-standard ways of teaching are considered to be "bad" teachers.
  5. They tend to be there for the credits, not for learning. And in the US, they want their money's worth.
  6. Universities hire professors on the basis of their research, then expect them to be teachers without giving them didaktical courses.
There are no easy answers, but it seems to me that we really need to take the first-year students and make things clear to them: what they can expect of us, what we expect of them. Studying is work - work they have to do, work we cannot do for them. But we need to be very detailed and clear on our assignments.

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