Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Most boring spring break ever, day two: An immutable law of student interaction

Today I checked off one of the items on my "vacation" to-do list: I graded a stack of paper proposals for one of my undergraduate classes. And because the students won't be getting them back until after spring break is over, I sent out a quick e-mail blast to the class as a whole, telling them that they were finished, and that if they wanted me to send my comments via e-mail so they'd have them to work with, they should send me an e-mail and I'd respond as quickly as possible.

Within the first hour, I had my first two requests. And it's here that I discovered (rediscovered?) what seems to be an immutable law of student interaction: The students who take the most initiative to get feedback and assistance are generally the ones who need it least. Seriously: these first two students to request my comments are the only two who got full points on the assignment. The third (and so far only other) student to ask got the equivalent of an A-minus on her proposal.

Now, it's possible that most students aren't too concerned right now, because we did have proposal conferences before spring break, so it's not like they don't have anything to go on at all. And I'm sure that more students, representing a broader range of performance, will be writing in over the next couple of days, and they'll get exactly the same attention from me as the early-birds do. But I do find it interesting -- though not surprising -- that there is a strong correlation between taking initiative and generally doing well on assignments, and that the cause/effect relationship is circular. Which is to say, these students were already doing good work because they know to get out ahead of these things and ask for help when they need it.

...

In other news: going out for real social time tonight. And also, here's a thing I saw yesterday:

7 comments:

Comrade Physioprof said...

Thatte's a very strange fabric. It looks like painted loose-weave canvas or something.

Janice said...

Yes, I've seen that same law of student's ability and engagement in a direct ratio to their response to the possibility of improving their work. That's why I have an entire filing cabinet FULL of unclaimed work and retained exams (all of which I have to hold onto for a full year after the course is finished).

Susan said...

Congratulations on getting the papers graded! I read a book and drafted the review...and did lots of boring things.

Historiann said...

I think you're exactly right about the feedback loop of initiative and performance. I see the same thing in my advisees--the ones who actually sign up for appointments are the ones who really don't *need* my advice, because they're on top of their stuff already.

But I have say: you seriously e-mailed your students over SPRING BREAK to offer to do MORE WORK?!? I'd never, ever do that, even if my uni weren't in a hiring and salary freeze and forcing me to take furlough days. Your previous post was all about research not being supported and how you're killing yourself with teaching already this term. You really should consider being OK with "mediocrity until you show me the money."

Notorious Ph.D. said...

H'Ann: It was a calculated risk. Only 4 of 30 students e-mailed, which is about what I figured. 2.5 minutes times four students is not that big of a sacrifice.

Historiann said...

I'd still never do it. Little sacrifices add up. Embrace avoiding the extra mile, I say.

Enjoy the rest of your spring break!

Dr. S said...

Oh, man, I thought that that picture was of something you were going to wear while going out for social time! (To which I say: do what you feel! and rock that look out! But it was still a surprise.)