You will be grateful for that eventually

We met this morning with representative students from the program I teach in. We have each semester group elect two representatives, and then anyone interested can come. 18 students attended, a third of them women, 20 % with a "migration background", as it is euphemistically called in Berlin. That's actually pretty representative of the program.

We have complaints from students about professors, from professors about students, and from students about the stupidity of other students. It was good to hear what they had on their minds, although many of the problems are beyond our power to control. It seems they want to have a unified university experience with all the information they need delivered to them just in time. I explained that that is what they are to be learning at university - how to deal with complex and bizarre organizations and get the information that they need when they need it.

Each semester was asked about their current problems, starting with the oldest semesters and working our way down. We finally got to the first semester students, who were attending such a meeting for the first time. "Well," one of the students said, "everyone is kind of complaining about the lab reports for WiseWoman." I get lots of complaints about this.

I insist on the students not just delivering code, but describing the process by which they arrived at their results in complete sentences. With screenshots of their programs working. With a reflection on what they learned and how long they needed for the exercise. And the reports need to have their names on it, a title, page numbers, and all sorts of boring stuff. Not using a spelling checker can lead to a slightly lower grade than expected. Did I mention that it is either on time or not accepted? Moodle is my friend, refusing to accept papers beyond the deadline.

I was quite gratified by the chorus of voices from the older semesters that chimed in: "You will be grateful for that eventually." I've had former students that meet me on the street thank me for forcing them to write reports - they have needed that skill in the Real World. So I just keep on being a nasty beast and make them write in complete sentences.

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