A College Professor Speaks Out

A few weeks ago, a college professor posted a comment that deserves highlighting:

I am a college professor. While some may argue that some of my assignments are overly challenging… all of my assignments are designed to force students to consider complex issues independently. They are meant (usually) to take little time, but be addressed seriously.

It stuns me how much training I have to commit to showing our incoming freshmen how I intend their “homework” to be used.

For example:
– Students have typically been “trained” to rewrite all of my questions prior to typing their answers. What a gratuitous waste of time – I should know what I asked.

– Students typically ask “how long it has to be”, where, to me, if you address the questions as asked, the length is unimportant (as short as possible to answer the questions). More meat, less filler.

-Students have been taught to “read” the textbook. No one should literally read a text – it is a reference, use it to gain information, not to follow word-for-word. Use it to glean key features, organize material, identify differences between similar ideas, and so on.

-Homework is not an opportunity to force students to teach themselves something that you don’t find interesting enough to cover.

Now that my children are working their way up this system, it is that much more infuriating.

4 thoughts on “A College Professor Speaks Out

  1. From one university professor to another, I hear you!

    One thing that many students come up against in university is not the volume of work that is assigned, it is often the difficulty of the work that surprises them, the creativity and originality that is expected.

    Reams of simplistic, repetitive tasks assigned from age 5 are not going to prepare students to think critically when they need to, be it in “the real world”, their job, or in university.

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  2. My comment doesn’t relate to this entry (although this is a good post, college professor) but I have nowhere else to put this. It’s 2:17am and I’m up with my daughter who is desperately trying to finish up a monster research and essay portfolio already overdue. Soon she’ll have to answer four questions, self evaluating her writing process. Give me a break.This teacher is nothing more than a slave driver.

    My daughter’s been working on this for weeks, but since it came in the midst of so much else, here we are. As you all know, I’ve been a vocal critic of homework overload, but here we are. I cannot believe it.

    My daughter is in the living room and I have no idea if she’s still on task or even awake. She’s had so many late nights against my will, we have clearly lost our way here.

    For lack of anything better to do, I’m googling Phillips Exeter, the tony boarding school in New England. Not as if I’m going to send my daughter there, I just happen to be curious. I google homework and see that the headmaster boasts of it in his letter to parents. He’s cooing over some boarding school report that shows boarding school students spend an average of 17 hours a week on homework. The headmaster gushes that 17 hours is a low figure for his students!

    I quickly count up the hours and deduce, even at this late hour, that that would average out to around four hours each weekday night, give or take. I have to laugh. My daughter’s public school assigns her about six hours a night plus almost all of her weekend. Ha! We’ve trounced Phillips Exeter! Who knew? I should run and tell our school! They love being first at everything.

    I’m ready to pull her out. We’re homeschooling anyway, may as well make it official. No sane homeschooler would ever begin a serious day’s academics after a full day of work. If only I could. If only she was younger, and this blog existed then, I wouldn’t use the information to lobby the school. I wouldn’t waste my time writing emails and pleading my case. I’d happily vote with my feet (as we once did) and let the teachers and principal know exactly why.

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  3. Homework Blues — why can’t you pull her out?

    Anyway, I hope you and your daughter are getting some rest. Summer’s coming —

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  4. If I pulled her out, where would I put her? I’d love some suggestions, HELP!!!!!

    She doesn’t really want to go to college just yet, she’d like to graduate high school at this point. She’s finishing up junior year. Summer is coming but I’m sure she’ll have tons of summer work to look forward to plus college application essays. We’re going to encourage her to get a jump start on those, there will be no time in senior year, she’ll be more overworked than she is now.

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