Tuesday, November 25, 2008

‘Teaching Unprepared Students’

Over at Insidehighered.com:
Many experts say that the United States can only truly see gains in the
percentages of adults who have a college degree if colleges and universities get
better at teaching students who arrived on campus unprepared for college-level
work. But many professors find themselves frustrated by teaching such students — and many of the students drop out....

The comments:

I never had a problem reaching and teaching underprepared students who
wanted to learn. However, the students who are both underprepared and who lack
any semblance of a work ethic are another matter. When these students have been
taught for twelve years that they will advance to the next grade regardless of
how little they have learned or how little effort they have invested, they are
incapable of performing at a college level. That is because many of them have
never even achieved a junior high school level of self-discipline. Such students
are doomed to fail not only in school, but in life. They are tomorrow’s blue-
and white-collar criminals.

The subject of the interview states “However, the reality is that right now
we have freshmen and transfer students who are not prepared, but who are
enrolled in our classes and want to learn.”
I challenge that logic. Too many
students are enrolled because they have been sold a bill of goods. They are not
their to learn. Rather, they are there to get a job. They have been told this by
high school teachers, family members, public policy makers, admission officers,
etc. All of them have said the key to getting a good job, making lots of money,
and having a great life is, all together now, a college degree.
students fail to take to ownership of their education. They will blame the
instructor for having grading standards, for demanding their work meet certain
criteria, and for inconveniencing their lives. These people do not care about

I work in a Catholic, college prep high school that sends over 95% of our
students to college. We are facing the same issues of unprepared and unmotivated
students as discussed in the article & comments. Every year it seems, we
(and all of our peer institutions in NH) admit very intelligent (high test
score) students, some who have a pathetic work-ethic; who want education to be
entertainment; and who lack basic academic skills. We have implemented a
“front-loaded” program for freshmen that involves a core of battle hardened
teachers along with various support services. Most kids catch on and eventually
become successful. But every year, there are more and more kids who arrive
without an adequate foundation. It’s scary to think about the students coming
up, what they’re going to need, and how many resources they will require. I wish
I could be optimistic but I see all of us caught in the cultural demise of what
learning and education is all about.

I would tend to agree with those regarding lack of work ethic. I see it
everyday. Some students have a sense of entitlement regarding their academic
performance, while others realize that their performance is a reflection of
their hard work and effort. For many students, there is a disconnect between
effort and performance. After many years of schooling this disconnect means
these students are at the bottom of a very large hill. They will need an
extraordinary amount of assistance to make any progress up the hill (forget
about getting to the top). My question is: Is this the job of the university

“Everything must be learner-centered.” I have seen first-hand, at the
secondary and post-secondary level, the debilitating effects this mantra has had
on the learning environment. Life beyond the Ivory Tower is not, and the sooner
we teach our self-absorbed students this fact, the better learners (and people)
they will become. The kumbaya feel-good vibe is something I save for students
who give a damn; I’ve been burned far too many times by diverting positive
emotional capital towards students who end up dropping or failing anyway.

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