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s15rballard

Students in 100 level course not listening

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I am TAing for my department, and while grading I have noticed that a great many of my students are scoring poorly because they are not following directions I gave them multiple times (how to write a thesis, how to organize an essay). While I am sure I am not the most fascinating instructor, I am appalled that what was previously a very engaged class has not been paying attention to (or using) the assignment instructions, the course reading, or my advice in class.

How can I get the students to pull an about-face on this in the last half of the semester? 

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3 minutes ago, s15rballard said:

How can I get the students to pull an about-face on this in the last half of the semester? 

Have you held mandatory office hours for all of your students so you can get a sense of how you can provide better support? Would you hold more office hours so students can have more opportunities for one on one support? (If you do, I would recommend having a sign up sheet, keeping the office door open while having meetings, and documenting everything. Students who don't get the grades they want can get...difficult.)

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On 10/19/2019 at 12:26 PM, Sigaba said:

Have you held mandatory office hours for all of your students so you can get a sense of how you can provide better support? Would you hold more office hours so students can have more opportunities for one on one support? (If you do, I would recommend having a sign up sheet, keeping the office door open while having meetings, and documenting everything. Students who don't get the grades they want can get...difficult.)

Yes, I have held mandatory office hours and conferences; in fact, I held nearly twice the required amount of time for office hours for the first part of the semester. Barely anyone came and I eventually had to cut my hours down slightly to accommodate for an important obligation, but I'm still holding well over the required time. On the most substantial assignments, I grade by rubric so there can be little question of my reasoning and thereby also create a "paper trail". I do try to keep my office door open, but students have shut it behind them in conferences before. I am planning on getting a doorstop or something for that reason, and now plan on instituting a "conference log" for student visits. 

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I'm in my third semester of TAing, so not vast experience but some. I find that some students simply do not follow instructions. If you haven't already done so I would consider the following: 

  • have someone else read your assignment sheet to make sure you're explaining things clearly and concisely 
  • For papers, we're supposed to keep our assignment sheet to two pages
  • recognize that some students may not give your class its full attention - the class I TA for is part of a general studies course, so few people who are truly interested in the subject
  • are you spending some class time addressing the issues, including anticipated problems 
  • do they have an example of what a good paper would look like? What is a good thesis, etc. I ended up writing a sample essay for my students as I had a hard time finding one basic enough for a survey level class that covered everything I wanted to cover. 

One of the hard things about being a TA is that no matter how hard you try, some students will not put in the effort necessary. 

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On 10/19/2019 at 3:20 PM, s15rballard said:

How can I get the students to pull an about-face on this in the last half of the semester? 

You can't make them do work they're not willing to do. Some of them will be perfectly happy with a B or C, or are taking the course S/NC. Do your best, don't stress it, and don't go above and beyond - there's no reward for it.

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8 hours ago, telkanuru said:

You can't make them do work they're not willing to do. Some of them will be perfectly happy with a B or C, or are taking the course S/NC. Do your best, don't stress it, and don't go above and beyond - there's no reward for it.

This 100%. I've TAed before and now I've been teaching for 3 semester. The old saying,  "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." holds true. When students are performing poorly because they aren't doing the work, I will dedicate about 5-10 minutes of class time to address the concern and see if they have questions. I will remind them they can email me with questions or stop by office hours. After that, the ball is in their court. If they don't want to do the work or follow the instructions, that's on them. Some students will fail. 

I'm not sure what your discipline is in, but since I'm psych, I do a lot of stats. I will sometimes plot the scores of exams to see if they are in a normal distribution (do you get a bell curve). Sometimes when you analyze the scores, you realize that the scores are evenly spread out. Not everyone will get an A. If everyone gets an A, then you are making it to easy. If everyone gets an F, then you've made it to hard. Remember, a C is average. And what you consider a poor grade will be different from what others consider a poor grade. Not everyone in that classroom is interested in going on to graduate school. 

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