Re: Because this would help me a lot.

1

Rum, sodomy and the Lash.

Sorry, wrong thread.


Posted by: Winston Churchill | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 3:58 PM
horizontal rule
2

Developing a crush on a young attractive professor in a intimidating field who has a great ass and is always right.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:00 PM
horizontal rule
3

So, really, just the sodomy part of 1.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:01 PM
horizontal rule
4

Feedback from the instructor -- praise for mastering the material, and guilttripping for not getting stuff done. But I'm essentially a big dog, in terms of what motivates me: scratch me behind the ears and tell me I did good and I'll work forever.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:01 PM
horizontal rule
5

What about outside of math? In math, there's enough fear operating that they tend to be pretty motivated. I'm mostly just curious about what would need to be present if one were going to step totally outside the box, grade-wise.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:04 PM
horizontal rule
6

What about outside of math?

It's too dark to see.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:06 PM
horizontal rule
7

4 works for me too. My 5th grade teacher use to project the most horrible motives on me, and it never occurred to her that I loved positive attention, and it was a terrible year. (I'd get in trouble for her over-hearing a conversation I'd had with a friend, where she felt I was bullying the other person. Totally out of sync from the kind of problems I had with other teachers all the way through.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:06 PM
horizontal rule
8

For me, one incentive would be some sort of public display at the end, like a presentation.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:08 PM
horizontal rule
9

Fear of looking stupid in front of one's peers. Are there discussions?


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
10

and it never occurred to her that I loved positive attention

(I mean, I think all kids love positive attention. I think teachers sabotage themselves by being unduly cynical about kids' desire to please, because they're thrown off by kids' tendency to whine and exaggerate.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
11

8 is good -- it combines the desire to show off with the need to avoid humiliation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:09 PM
horizontal rule
12

Are there discussions?

There could be! What would you like to discuss?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:10 PM
horizontal rule
13

Importance or usefulness of the material? Doesn't help with less-motivated undergrads, but eg many people read Moby-Dick or Don Quixote without really enjoying them because they understand them to be worth reading. Others study tax law or the innards of database servers for purely practical reasons. If there are real lunks in the class, explain that the material is like calisthenics. By the time they figure out that the statement is false, it'll be too late.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:10 PM
horizontal rule
14

Why am I taking this class? If I don't enjoy the material, then it can't be an elective or for my major. Since it is not for grades, it must not be what my classmates called a "cake" class. So it must be some sort of graduation requirement, gen ed thing.

You are the Phys. Ed. requirement a liberal arts college! Threaten them with more laps.

Perhaps some m-fun activities relating to the subject?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:11 PM
horizontal rule
15

Announce that something really good will happen for people keeping up the work (or showing up or whatever). The catch is that when it happens must be totally "unexpected".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:12 PM
horizontal rule
16

Between 2 and 8 I think we have an answer:

Clearly you need to do a strip show for the students who do well.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:12 PM
horizontal rule
17

I'm pretty sure 4 is just a cleaner version of 2.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:12 PM
horizontal rule
18

Since it is not for grades, it must not be what my classmates called a "cake" class.

I'm saying, if hypothetically, grades were suspended in a regular class, what might the professor do that would motivate you?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:13 PM
horizontal rule
19

Importance or usefulness of the material?

This is interesting, insofar as it connects with the commodification of education. As in, to what extent is the teacher accountable to what the student thinks is important to learn? It's not an easy answer.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:15 PM
horizontal rule
20

Would a tiny class have motivated you? Like having three people in your class? This connects to the points about presentations and group participation.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:16 PM
horizontal rule
21

Guilt trips? Is there some way students can compete with each other outside of grades? That might've worked for high school me, though not undergrad me particularly.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:17 PM
horizontal rule
22

18. How big is the class? College was a long time ago, but I seem to remember good food and responsible consumption of adult beverages were offered by some professors as incentives to attend small group discussions, which were less intimidating than the classroom environment.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:20 PM
horizontal rule
23

Tiny classes become more of a complete success or total failure situation. Either the motivation will spread over the whole group, or everyone will feel disaffected. The main variable here is the personalities of the students you get. You need at least two talkers just to get the thing going.

Personally, I've had bad luck with classes under 5.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:21 PM
horizontal rule
24

22: How big would you like it to be?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:21 PM
horizontal rule
25

22: Adult beverages? That must have been a long time ago.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:21 PM
horizontal rule
26

I think you need to put a little more flesh on the question before we can meaningfully answer it. We're just taking stabs in the dark here. You've done little more than ask baldly, "what motivates people?" Sex? Cash? Fear? Desire for self-actualization?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
27

I've never actually taught a tiny class, but I was a total motor-mouth in school, so I would have either swung the group to be a group of talkers or alienated a group of quiet peers.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
28

I had three people in a seminar I took one year as an undergrad. I totally slacked off on my oral presentation at the end----because I was all "stupid! duh, there're only three of us!"----and the professor criticised my eyerolling, enunciation, and slumpy posture in front of everyone. I sure learned THAT lesson the hard way.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:23 PM
horizontal rule
29

I think you need to put a little more flesh on the question before we can meaningfully answer it. We're just taking stabs in the dark here. You've done little more than ask baldly, "what motivates people?" Sex? Cash? Fear? Desire for self-actualization?

Yeah but I don't want generic guesses. I'm curious about what would have motivated Brock Landers to be the best Brock Landers he can be.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:24 PM
horizontal rule
30

M & Ms.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:24 PM
horizontal rule
31

30: That's how my parents potty-trained us. To this day I do not have many accidents, so.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:25 PM
horizontal rule
32

29: so the only parameters are, be my best (a) in a class where I didn't like the material and (b) that was ungraded? There's no (c) or (d) you can offer to guide the question any further? With only those two parameters, the answer seems wildly underdetermined.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
33

That must have been a long time ago

Watch it, sonny.

I did enjoy going to the professor's house for dinner, and the adult beverages reinforced the informal nature of the proceedings as well as allowing the undergraduates to feel "adult", and participate in the conversation thus.

I think there were between seven and ten at dinner. Not big enough to hide, but not small enough that one had to constant engage in conversation.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:27 PM
horizontal rule
34

The "really didn't enjoy the material" bit is worrying me. Is it really difficult and laborious? Because I'm also bone lazy, so you may be out of luck in terms of how to motivate me. If it's just dull, there's got to be some way to make it interesting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:29 PM
horizontal rule
35

M&Ms in our house were "keep going pills," given out whenever we children started to whine during a hike. There may have been a faulty incentive mechanism up in there.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:29 PM
horizontal rule
36

I'm saying, if hypothetically, grades were suspended in a regular class, what might the professor do that would motivate you?

This is really about that hippy motorcyle book, right Heebie? Are we going to start hearing about `Quality' now?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:30 PM
horizontal rule
37

If I don't enjoy the material, then it can't be an elective or for my major.

Assumes facts not in evidence. I didn't much care for most of my undergrad classes in my concentration.

Is this an ungraded but required class? 'Cause that seems weird.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:30 PM
horizontal rule
38

If you are asking the question personally, I think you will find that a lot of us here were keeners, and are motivated by positive attention from teachers (as in 2, 4, and 7). The problem is that most students aren't


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
39

I mean, if I had a class I didn't like that was ungraded, but required, I would enroll so that it would show up on my transcript, and then never show up. Problem solved!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
40

Yeah, if the material is difficult and awful, then the incentive has got to seem worth it. If after memorising, I dunno, three thousand words of Hawaiian, the teacher threw a pizza party, then I would not feel adequately rewarded for my effort, even though of course the real "reward" would be my newfound knowledge of Hawaiian. No, instead, I would drop the ungraded Hawaiian class in favor of an easier ungraded class--say, an Italian class with a really hott instructor.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
41

I know you've mentioned this class before, heeblets-geeblets, but can you give some hints about what specifically the material in question is?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:33 PM
horizontal rule
42

It's more like I feel like my colleagues keep talking about this generic arms race between the students and the teachers. The teachers come up with an assignment, and the students tackle it to optimize their grade while short-changing their learning. The teachers tweak the assignment to sabotage the short-cut-takers and set off a new unexpected host of ways-not-to-learn-but-still-get-a-good-grade.

I really don't know how to step outside the arms race, although it's not a big problem in the math classes. (It's a bit of a problem in this Welcome to College class, but we're just trying to survive that class and the kids are friendly, so let's leave well enough alone.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:34 PM
horizontal rule
43

38...like that.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:35 PM
horizontal rule
44

29

Yeah but I don't want generic guesses. I'm curious about what would have motivated Brock Landers to be the best Brock Landers he can be.

In my case it is some sort of competition (including against myself).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:35 PM
horizontal rule
45

Tits.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:35 PM
horizontal rule
46

"what motivates people?" Sex? Cash? Fear? Desire for self-actualization?

As a professional freakonomist, I can answer confidently that incentives motivate people. I will wait for someone to come up with a specific answer to Heebie's question, wait a bit longer till Heebie reports back that it works, then reveal the hidden order of the said incentive at work.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:36 PM
horizontal rule
47

the students tackle it to optimize their grade while short-changing their learning.

But they aren't, really, they are trying to minimize their effort, which nine times out of 10 short-changes their learning.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:38 PM
horizontal rule
48

For example, personal attention from hot professors motivated me. (There was only one, actually, but that was my dumb luck.) But I'm guessing that's not what you're looking for. So, could we add parameter (c), "and (c) where I'm not trying to score with the professor"? (And we may as well also add "(d) or trying to score with any other students in the class".) I'm sure you can come up with a few more parameters.

But, in an attempt to answer, ice cream is very motivational.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:38 PM
horizontal rule
49

the students tackle it to optimize their grade while short-changing their learning.

Clearly the solution is to base the grade on how much they have learned! I will leave the implementation of this as an exercise.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:39 PM
horizontal rule
50

47: That is more accurate, true.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:40 PM
horizontal rule
51

If after memorising, I dunno, three thousand words of Hawaiian, the teacher threw a pizza party, then I would not feel adequately rewarded for my effort

What if the pizza were topped with humuhumunukunukuapua'a and lauwiliwilinukunuku'oi'oi? And pineapple, of course.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:40 PM
horizontal rule
52

I know there's no pat answer. I'm just having an "Education is Broken" day.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:41 PM
horizontal rule
53

48 before I saw 42. Gosh, you're asking how to engage the disengaged? I don't think anyone can give you a formula for that. Just be a super-great superhero teacher. There are a few inspirational movies you could watch: Stand By Me, Dangerous Minds, Teen Wolf, etc.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:43 PM
horizontal rule
54

OK- we had this one professor who had developed an obscure list of terms and phrases. The object was to turn us loose in the library to get the meaning of these obscure terms. At first there were a list of ten, but that was quickly divided by various study groups. So the next set was over one hundred terms, but this penalized those without a study group. So eventually everyone in the class got a personalized set of terms from his massive database of trivia.

So James is right, competition.

(NB- as Mr. Helpy-chalk so rudely pointed out, this was a long time ago. The guys who invented Google are not even born prior to my undergrad years).


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:43 PM
horizontal rule
55

OMG, this thread is soooooooooooooo boring. I can't believe I'm in here.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:45 PM
horizontal rule
56

I would say that trying to make students like you, so they see you (at least in some ways) as a friend rather than an authority, and also doing your best to motivate the material to overcome the "really don't enjoy the material" thing--that's all you've got. And it's likely not to work in many cases, unfortunately.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:46 PM
horizontal rule
57

This thread is reinforcing my opinion that I'm going to make a truly awful professor someday, if I don't land a cushy research-only job.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:49 PM
horizontal rule
58

And to follow on 56, that's liable to be counterproductive in other ways.

Maybe instead you could just work on getting the disengaged students expelled from the school? Clearly the spoiled little fuckers don't deserve to be there.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:49 PM
horizontal rule
59

Fish and pineapple pizza? Ew.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:50 PM
horizontal rule
60

Viciously insult the students (hey, fatty) until they work harder. Because the only students who will be inclined to work hard in a boring, ungraded class are psychologically damaged masochists.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:50 PM
horizontal rule
61

I held intra-class quiz shows, with cookies as the prize. But at the end, there were enough cookies for everyone because we are all winners!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:51 PM
horizontal rule
62

56 is correct. If I found the material uninteresting and had no need for a good grade, I might give the professor the benefit of the doubt if the professor seems to genuinely enjoy the material AND if I like the professor for some reason. Otherwise the only motivation would be if I was somehow convinced that actually learning the material, instead of just passing the class, would help my career prospects.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:52 PM
horizontal rule
63

61: Plus, I love cookies! Win-win.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:52 PM
horizontal rule
64

I think 48 underestimates the degree to which "I want to score with the professor" can be sublimated into "I just want her to like me" which in turn can become "If I'm the perfect student, she might give me a pat on the head."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:54 PM
horizontal rule
65

It's more like I feel like my colleagues keep talking about this generic arms race between the students and the teachers. The teachers come up with an assignment, and the students tackle it to optimize their grade while short-changing their learning. The teachers tweak the assignment to sabotage the short-cut-takers and set off a new unexpected host of ways-not-to-learn-but-still-get-a-good-grade.

I would recommend the book Experiment at Evergreen as presenting an interesting perspective on that question but, unfortunately, it's out of print and difficult to find.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:54 PM
horizontal rule
66

I think 60 gets it right. The question Heebie's really asking (if I may be so bold as to rephrase) is just how do you make material unboring for people who are inclined to think it's boring. And I think that's what good teaching is all about, and there's a thousand theories.

Heebie, maybe you should have gotten your degree in education instead of maths. Then you'd know all this stuff already.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:56 PM
horizontal rule
67

65: I knew a handful of people who went to New College in Florida, also grade-less, and they reported basically that what you put into it is what you got out of it, and they happened to be grad school bound overachievers who got a lot out of it. Don't know how similar New College and Evergreen are in other ways, though.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:56 PM
horizontal rule
68

Here is a dime. Go and call your mother, and tell her there is very little chance of you're ever becoming a lawyer.


Posted by: Charles W. Kingsfield, Jr. | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:56 PM
horizontal rule
69

58: She's mentioned that the school has retention problems in the past.

"If they don't like my class they shouldn't be in college" has long been a popular line among professors, but administration is putting up with this less and less, and with good reason. Ironically, they are doing this while pushing online education, which has even more retention problems.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:57 PM
horizontal rule
70

Fish and pineapple pizza? Ew.

Not only that, but I bet triggerfish tastes like shit. Too evil to be delicious.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:57 PM
horizontal rule
71

Heebie, maybe you should have gotten your degree in education instead of maths. Then you'd know all this stuff already. then you'd have a bunch of unconfirmed (and often unconfirmable) hypotheses about this.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 4:59 PM
horizontal rule
72

they reported basically that what you put into it is what you got out of it

That's certainly true of Evergeen as well. I think part of the challenge of a school like that is to find ways for the class to work even when there are very different degrees of engagement and accomplishment between different students.

One of the points that I found interesting in the book was that classes, in a traditional university, aren't merely competing against boredom for the students time, they are also competing against other classes. If all of the other classes have a variety of small make-work assignments and your's don't then students will spend less time on your class.

So the solution that Evergreen tries is that your entire academic load for a semester is with one team of teachers so they can set the pace and workload without worrying that, when they try to slow down, student will just shift effort to other classes.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:01 PM
horizontal rule
73

The question Heebie's really asking (if I may be so bold as to rephrase) is just how do you make material unboring for people who are inclined to think it's boring.

This isn't quite what I was asking, but it triggers an interesting self-reflection. (I think I was asking about syllabi-type structures one could implement in the class.)

The self-introspection: Perhaps the reason this is on my mind is that I'm finding the material I'm being forced to teach in the Welcome To College class pretty boring. It is hard for me to drum up much enthusiam for this crap, and so I secretly feel like I'm on the students' side.

For the record, I'm pretty energetic and enthusiastic teaching the math. The kids stay awake and ask and answer lots of questions and roll their eyes humoringly at my jokes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:01 PM
horizontal rule
74

Why don't you throw away the boring material and, Dead Poets Society style, teach with PASSION?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:03 PM
horizontal rule
75

I went to look for Experiment at Evergreen in my public library, which is now hooked up to, like, every other library west of the Rockies. There is one copy at UCSC, but apparently they won't send it over to the peasants at Sacramento Public. Whatever. That nice UNLV was totally willing to send me a book on floods yesterday.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:04 PM
horizontal rule
76

without worrying that, when they try to slow down, student will just shift effort to other classes.

I never thought about this before. It does seem this would be a huge problem in a class where you're trying to get the kids to wrestle with an tough ideas, and don't want to distract them with busy work, that they take the opportunity to scratch out some answers for a more urgent assignment. It's like the whole "urgent" vs. "important" trade-off, and we keeping subbing in urgent for important, and thereby sabotage things that are important but aren't urgent.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:05 PM
horizontal rule
77

If this is completely hypothetical, the answer is: don't be silly: nothing will.

If it's not hypothetical, surely I'm a better person to ask than all the rest of these homework-doing class-attending nerds, and my answer is: nothing.

Or maybe gratuitous nudity, depending on the demographics.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:06 PM
horizontal rule
78

Prof. Heebie:
http://video.aol.com/partner/hulu/animal-house-smoke-some-pot/g9B9JN74Abeg27geZROtP


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:07 PM
horizontal rule
79

I guess you could threaten to kill a puppy if they don't shape up.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:07 PM
horizontal rule
80

Students work on things that are urgent, not things that are important. Always. Hence the concept of a deadline.

If a class has a book recommended for reading, without which the lectures are merely isolated context-free blather, nobody will read the book unless there is some sort of assignment that requires them to prove they have read the book. Even if the book didn't cost anything.


Posted by: Shatlas Rugged | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:08 PM
horizontal rule
81

TLL has a point.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:08 PM
horizontal rule
82

Ass, grades, or grass: nobody works for free.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:10 PM
horizontal rule
83

TLL's point isn't working for me.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:10 PM
horizontal rule
84

It's like the whole "urgent" vs. "important" trade-off, and we keeping subbing in urgent for important,

Exactly, that is a very good phrasing of the problem. I found Experiment at Evergreen convincing in it's description of how much that problem pervades university life.

It also has sections about running a class without grades, and preparing students to do meaningful self-evaluations but my memory is less clear on those sections.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:13 PM
horizontal rule
85

TLL's point isn't working for me.

I get that a lot around here


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:13 PM
horizontal rule
86

81: I don't know, when I click on the link it says the page is not found, and yet the page was indeed found, it just happened to not contain a working video.


Posted by: Shatlas Rugged | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:13 PM
horizontal rule
87

I found a really interesting picture of the purpose of higher education in -- of all places -- The Blind Side by Michael Lewis; college is something you go to so you can meet the rich kids who will have jobs to offer you, which they'll do because you root for the same football team. Actual academic work is to be minimized as much as possible. Now, this is not the perspective of the kids, mind you. It's the parents.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:14 PM
horizontal rule
88

(I think I was asking about syllabi-type structures one could implement in the class.)

Yeah, but to the extent that's what you're asking, if we're sticking with the (a) boring material, (b) no grades, (c) no sex parameters, Sifu's got it right: nothing.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:15 PM
horizontal rule
89

I have to agree with Sifu, especially if we are talking general ed stuff. Those classes are just dull and mostly useless. The classes that I did the most above and beyond work were electives within my major that I found interesting and that were project based. Mostly because my friends were also in those classes and we were competing. It also helped if the project requirements were vague.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:15 PM
horizontal rule
90

My daughter could probably offer something constructive based on her experience at Bennington. I can't really pose the question to her, blinded as I am by the smoke coming out of my ears.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:17 PM
horizontal rule
91

Oh well. It was Donald Sutherland as the weird Lit Professor in "Animal House" introducing the students to "pot".

"Animal House" came out the summer before my freshman year in college. Needless to say the cultural influence of this seminal work can not be overstated.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:18 PM
horizontal rule
92

76, 80, 84 -- I haven't read the book in question, but isn't the whole point of grades in college to transform "important" things (in the Professor's view) into "urgent" ones from the student's perspective? I mean, it's never really urgent that anyone read the first 1/3 of Moby Dick, but if you know that you're having a quiz on that on Monday and will fail the course if you don't do the reading?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:20 PM
horizontal rule
93

Why am I taking this class? If I don't enjoy the material, then it can't be an elective or for my major.

Many people hate their majors.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:23 PM
horizontal rule
94

There's a word for being forced to do dull work with no reward: slavery. No wonder that students opt out of that.

Colleges or other schools with no grades (I went to one) either have to make the material REALLY interesting and entertaining, which is incredibly hard, or rely on some kind of non-grade based evaluation system to motivate performance. Otherwise, it's totally understandable that most non-insane people will opt out of doing the work.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:24 PM
horizontal rule
95

Many people hate their majors

Data? I don't really want to argue this, but why is it your major if you hate it? Or did the realization come too late?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:27 PM
horizontal rule
96

Many people hate school, TLL, and are only there in the hope of eventually getting a better job.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:29 PM
horizontal rule
97

I've talked to people who hated their entire education from middle school through grad school. They were doing it for money, to make their parents happy, and out of simple conventionality.

I was the opposite: I could barely even finish a class that I didn't like, and got a lot of Bs, a few Cs, and a D that way. And lo! I had no career at all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:35 PM
horizontal rule
98

the hope of eventually getting a better job.

Welders make a lot more. College ain't for everybody.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:36 PM
horizontal rule
99

I don't think we're the people you need to convince of that, 98.


Posted by: Shatlas Rugged | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:37 PM
horizontal rule
100

Experiment at Evergreen can be had for $48. Obviously The Man is trying to keep The Student down. Probably someone buys copies up and burns them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:38 PM
horizontal rule
101

Most of the classes I hated, including many in my major, were just sort of trivial, so I got good grades with minimal effort and skipped almost all the lectures. Professors never seemed to mind that, except the one old German man who glowered at me and said "I never see you in my class" when I showed up for the exam. The challenging classes were the ones that really motivated me. I don't expect this generalizes to many people.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:40 PM
horizontal rule
102

TLL, what relevance does 98 have to anything? I'm in full agreement with you, but we were talking about what is, not what ought to be. Your argument seems to be roughly that people should only go to school to study something they'll enjoy; therefore, everyone is interested in their major. But that's silly.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:50 PM
horizontal rule
103

101 - I expect that generalizes pretty well to certain segments of the folks here. Certainly does for me.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:51 PM
horizontal rule
104

It does seem this would be a huge problem in a class where you're trying to get the kids to wrestle with an tough ideas, and don't want to distract them with busy work, that they take the opportunity to scratch out some answers for a more urgent assignment.

Yes, of course you have to get them to wrestle with the ideas on paper, and then turn it into you (or else grade class discussions). But is that what you'd call "busy-work"?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 5:54 PM
horizontal rule
105

Ooh! I know! Let the class meet outside the classroom on nice days. My Spanish IV teacher in high school was a total pushover on this one, and we worked hard to make it clear that we were paying extra-special close attention on the outside days.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:04 PM
horizontal rule
106

102. Brock-my argument is more that one should be interested in one's major. Some classes will be more interesting than others, granted. But really, why are you studying X if you hate it?

Pre-meds have a pretty rigorous schedule, and maybe you don't like bio but still want to be a surgeon. OK, but...

I am actually having a hard time coming up with a major that one would hate that would lead to a better job.



Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:04 PM
horizontal rule
107

Okay. The combination of 14 and 95 made it seem like you were arguing that no one majors in anything they dislike, not that no one should.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:15 PM
horizontal rule
108

And in the more technical type majors, why would one think that if one hates the subject in college, one would love it as a job for the rest of eternity?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:18 PM
horizontal rule
109

Many people hate their jobs, too, TLL.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:24 PM
horizontal rule
110

Seriously. M & Ms. Last class I taught (to a bunch of lawyers at 8:30 a.m. after a firm-funded gala of drinking the night before), I brought a big bag of M & Ms, then told them they would be rewarded for good answers. Flying bags of M & Ms are magic!

Another trick that worked well back when I taught undergrads was to look all pathetic when they were disengaged and tell them their lack of participation was making me sad. I'm not sure this would work as well without the pregnant belly I was flaunting back then, but you've got that Heebie! "Don't make the pregnant lady cry..."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:25 PM
horizontal rule
111

You could offer to make them do math instead.

*ducks; runs away*


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:27 PM
horizontal rule
112

Having the kids sit in a circle, loosen their constricting garments, and hug one another can be helpful.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:27 PM
horizontal rule
113

90: Why is there smoke coming out of your ears?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:28 PM
horizontal rule
114

i've read somewhere that people learn things better when they eat something, coz many things to associate with the material, taste or smell etc, so it's easier to recall the material afterwards
or concentrate better when they chew f.e chewing gum, the citrus flavour
so cookies in the class maybe could be helpful


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:37 PM
horizontal rule
115

Do I have to read the entire thread? Has heebie elaborated on the nature of the course? Is it that "how to do college" course?

Presumably if you don't enjoy the material and there are no grades, it's some sort of pass/fail course required of all. I took two of those, and the one more relevant was a freshman composition course. How to Write, in other words.

What worked to motivate on the instructor's part was a combination of shaming and praise (neither public). A sort of slash and burn technique, no holds barred with respect to writing he felt sheerly sucked; this only works for students possessing some level of pride. There's nothing quite like a student who thought she was at least not too bad being told that she was producing B- level work at the moment. Those grades wouldn't be reflected officially, but they were on the papers in hypothesis.

If the students have no pride in their work, I don't know what to say: one must instill it. This makes me uncomfortable, given that competition in realms one would rather not care about can be a soul-killer.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:51 PM
horizontal rule
116

103: yeah, when I said "I don't expect this generalizes", I really meant to enough students to be useful when thinking about what motivates students or how students will respond when they're bored, not that it won't generalize to the not-exactly-typical population of Unfogged.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:57 PM
horizontal rule
117

There's nothing quite like a student who thought she was at least not too bad being told that she was producing B- level work at the moment.

There's nothing quite like a student who thinks work that is "at least not too bad" should receive something higher than a B-.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 6:59 PM
horizontal rule
118

Hmmm, tough question. Because of the way the UK educational system works, I wasn't in a class where I really didn't enjoy the material after I was about 15, and even before then it was mostly graded. To the extent that it wasn't, I wasn't motivated.

The closest examples I can draw on are economists doing econometrics and undergraduate law degrees, which are basically a tedious waste of three years except for being degrees. Because degrees at Oxford are only based on the final exams, you could argue those classes weren't graded. But again, the only thing that motivated my friends in those cases was that they had to do it or they'd get chucked out of university. The sooner they got the work done the quicker they could go to the pub.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 7:05 PM
horizontal rule
119

117: Fair enough. I don't remember now what it was: maybe a C! Slap in the face, anyway.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 7:08 PM
horizontal rule
120

118 brings up something that I was thinking about: isn't it the case that at both Oxford and Cambridge (maybe everywhere in the UK?), students are basically free to do whatever they want, attend lectures or not, and the only thing that's ever graded is a final exam? It seems like a large-scale version of how many of my professors never cared that I didn't show up for their classes. Students go to class if they like, they don't go if they don't want to. Why is this not a win-win situation? Why should professors care whether the students feel motivated?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 7:15 PM
horizontal rule
121

120 is of course inapplicable to discussion-type classes.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 7:18 PM
horizontal rule
122

I have an uncle who made decent money in college taking final exams for people who never attended class (and who the teacher would therefore not recognize). But his was decades ago; I think many universities now require picture id's at exams (at least in large classes) for this very reason.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 7:22 PM
horizontal rule
123

113 -- Have you priced college?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 7:31 PM
horizontal rule
124

123: Ah... Yes, yes I have. I'm not letting Rory go to college, so problem solved!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 7:45 PM
horizontal rule
125

I've just caught up with what heebie's worrying about; apologies. I can't say a thing about syllabus structure, but:

42: It's more like I feel like my colleagues keep talking about this generic arms race between the students and the teachers. The teachers come up with an assignment, and the students tackle it to optimize their grade while short-changing their learning. The teachers tweak the assignment to sabotage the short-cut-takers and set off a new unexpected host of ways-not-to-learn-but-still-get-a-good-grade.

And: I'm finding the material I'm being forced to teach in the Welcome To College class pretty boring. It is hard for me to drum up much enthusiam for this crap, and so I secretly feel like I'm on the students' side

I frequently started my classes for courses that were a little mysterious by laying cards on the table: Why are we here? What is interesting about this? Why are you guys here? (Please tell me.)

You do have to work for this: gotta come up with some understanding of what the hell the point of the course is, and lay it out. If there just isn't one, or you're going to come across fake/lame in pretending that there is one, the only recourse may be to change the course.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 7:57 PM
horizontal rule
126

I'll carry on: I might consider being very plain with students: this is a requirement, and we know it. Basically, the students don't want to be patronized, and you don't want to patronize them.

I might even consider spending 15 minutes of the first session talking about the place of a college education in one's life, the fact that we all feel we need one, the fact that rigging good grades is going to feel like the right thing to do (financial investment in the future and all that); and the fact that it's going to be very, very boring if that's all it is.

Is this all obvious? Does everyone do this already in such courses? I have no idea.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:17 PM
horizontal rule
127

"sn't it the case that at both Oxford and Cambridge (maybe everywhere in the UK?), students are basically free to do whatever they want, attend lectures or not, and the only thing that's ever graded is a final exam? "

In principle, yes. I mean, we did lots of essays and they were graded, but they didn't count at all toward the degree itself. It was more a question of showing good faith to the university and ensuring that you weren't completely slacking off. I pretty much stopped attending more than a handful of lectures after my first year and spent my time reading in the pub instead. Far more productive for an Eng Lit degree, if you ask me. Tutorials (which I did attend and are very productive) amounted to maybe five hours a week. As far as I know Oxford and Cambridge are unique in the final exam regard, but Durham might do it as well. It's quite similar to Oxbridge in other ways.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:28 PM
horizontal rule
128

Shit. I might have done well in Oxford or Cambridge. Instead, I went to a rigorous American school.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:30 PM
horizontal rule
129

You should have gone to law school, John. Also nothing but final exams. Of course, then you might have become a lawyer, which would have been a dreadful mistake.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:33 PM
horizontal rule
130

"Why is this not a win-win situation? "

Well, for a start, not everyone is good at exams and moreover a lot of people can't handle the pressure pyschologically. It was win-win for me, because I am and I could. But I'd bet good money the mental illness rate is a lot higher at Oxbridge than at other universities, and most of my close friends suffered from depression and/or other problems. Also, if you think about it, cramming three years of research into nine three hour bookless exams isn't very representative of what you'd be doing in a post-graduate environment, so it doesn't make a huge amount of sense to award literature degrees on that basis.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:36 PM
horizontal rule
131

120: In math, this is definitely the case. We had some homework for the approximately 3-4 hours of tutorials each week, but it did not count toward one's grade. To be honest, no one really cared if you attended those, either. For pretty much my whole degree, I rarely showed up to class, if ever, never handed in homework, and really only did a couple weeks studying before the final exams. It was actually probably the wrong choice for me, academically, but I gotta admit that my social schedule was far better than my friends back at US universities who actually had work.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:46 PM
horizontal rule
132

This is for an undergraduate degree. No, exams, certainly in certain fields, don't make sense at all. Those helpful tutorials Ginger Yellow mentioned: helpful! If most classes are actually like tutorials, even more helpful.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:49 PM
horizontal rule
133

My theory is that American colleges have to take semi-literate, semi-motivated 18 year olds and make some of them them into PhDs in 7 to 10 years, so they prescribe everything in detail, test frequently, and spell everything out. Whereas elite European universities, or some of them anyway, are simply able to assume that students have background and also that they are able to self-motivate.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:51 PM
horizontal rule
134

131, cont.: And yeah... it was not the right thing for me, academically. Too extreme to only have a final exam at the end of the year. It's pretty hard to have the internal motivation to keep being productive when there's no one who really gives a crap if you learn anything. Plus, only three years and three exam scores for your whole degree doesn't leave many chances to turn over a new leaf.

I'm doing far better in a more normal US masters program now, which at least has midterms and finals at the end of each term in order to keep me on some vaguely regular schedule for learning the stuff. Since I've never been a cram-and-forget-it sort, this is about the perfect pacing to make sure I keep up with the reading and attend more classes, which is all I really need to learn the material.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:53 PM
horizontal rule
135

133: From my experience, I'd say it was more that the European kids either 1) planned on going to grad school and were thus working their asses off or 2) just wanted to go get a job afterward, in which case they just had to pass. Grades really didn't matter so much unless you were among the few people competing for those top firsts.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 8:56 PM
horizontal rule
136

my more cheerful (I hope) addendum to this question is, what if you were my adored baby brother and you were a freshman at Evergreen and you were about to get a care package? What would you hope would be in it? That can be sent legally through the mail?


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:20 PM
horizontal rule
137
Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:20 PM
horizontal rule
138

The illegal things are readily available there, praise the Lord!

Local foods he's fond of? That he doesn't have to cook?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:23 PM
horizontal rule
139

Boring, required, and no grade? College-age Cala would have skipped the class, or found a way to make it challenging.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:24 PM
horizontal rule
140

sadly, I am not in the "local" that he might have fondness for foods of.

WHOA. that sentence got way out of my control. Who knows where it's going. Anyway, I'm in DC, but we grew up (and he lived until a couple months ago) in Montana. I can bake him cookies, but I was thinking more along the lines of fun toys and/or useful gadgets.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
141

Every class is more challenging if you commit yourself to doing all the writing without using certain letters of the alphabet.

At the beginning, I suggest "f" or "p" -- "e" is too hard, and "q", "x", and "z" are cheating.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
142

Boring, required, and no grade? College-age Cala would have skipped the class, or found a way to make it challenging.

The above statement is true solely in virtue of the truth of the first disjunct and the semantics of "or", I suspect.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:27 PM
horizontal rule
143

(I don't have anything helpful for Heebie because the only thing that ever motivated me was to make sure I was as up on it all as the rest of my class. but if the whole class is bored/doesn't care, then I don't know how to fix that. Maybe have them create a puppet show based on what they've learned so far? But that would probably only work on the ones who were exactly like me.)


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:29 PM
horizontal rule
144

sadly, I am not in the "local" that he might have fondness for foods of.

Reading upwards, and not reading very carefully, I thought this was a bemoaning by Cecily of the sexual practices of an inamoratus.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:29 PM
horizontal rule
145

That's inamorato. Italian, not Latin.

OH, BURN!


Posted by: Shatlas Rugged | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:30 PM
horizontal rule
146

BLAST


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:31 PM
horizontal rule
147

144 - it might have been. I couldn't really tell what it said anymore, so I wisely started a new paragraph and put the old sentence in time out.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:32 PM
horizontal rule
148

The above statement is true solely in virtue of the truth of the first disjunct and the semantics of "or", I suspect

More like dependent on the type of class; if it was fiddling around on the computer, I'd entertain myself by doing more than the boring assignments called for. If it was in a discussion section full of bored people and attendance didn't count, zoooom.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:36 PM
horizontal rule
149

OT to Heebie: did you guys get Jammies one of these shirts yet? (does he still have a beard, anyway?) HURRY!


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:40 PM
horizontal rule
150

Did Alan Greenspan finally realize that Ayn Rand damaged his psychosexual development?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:40 PM
horizontal rule
151

As a professional freakonomist, I can answer confidently that incentives motivate people. I will wait for someone to come up with a specific answer to Heebie's question, wait a bit longer till Heebie reports back that it works, then reveal the hidden order of the said incentive at work.

This is brilliant. Brilliant! The kind of thing that makes economics so superior to other fields, like sociology.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:40 PM
horizontal rule
152

Montana? Well, they like snoose.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:40 PM
horizontal rule
153

I have no idea how comment 150 ended up in this thread. Surely I didn't do that. I blame Firefox.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:42 PM
horizontal rule
154

152: no, no, we're from Missoula. More the make-fun-of-people-smoking-cloves and then-run-around-back-for-a-joint set. I wish I could mail him beer but I'm pretty sure I'd get in trouble somehow or other.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:44 PM
horizontal rule
155

I really liked Missoula's setting the times I went through, with the water lines of Lake Missoula on the hills above the city.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 9:54 PM
horizontal rule
156

yeah I like it too. It's pretty!

local stores have t-shirts with

Missoula, Montana: A place, sort of.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-23-08 10:17 PM
horizontal rule
157

As far as I know Oxford and Cambridge are unique in the final exam regard, but Durham might do it as well. It's quite similar to Oxbridge in other ways.

At Glasgow there are exams in the first and second years which are preconditions for entry into the next stage of the degree. So you need to pass the 'ordinary' exams in year 1 for admittance to 'higher ordinary' in year 2 and pass 'higher ordinary' [at 2:1 level or above] for admittance to honours.

However, you can be exempted from those exams [in some subjects] if your assessed work during term time has been of a high enough standard.

How do mods and prelims work? I've taught for them but never been quite sure if they work like the ordinary and higher ordinary exams at Glasgow?

The final degree mark is solely based on final exams, though. Once you're admitted to honours the slate is wiped clean and none of the work you do during honours [unless you take a thesis paper] counts, either. So, in my case, I had 8 or 9 finals papers each examined by 3 - 6 hours of exams plus a 30K word thesis.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 12:23 AM
horizontal rule
158

Why aren't the "higher ordinary" exams called "extraordinary"?!?!?!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 12:27 AM
horizontal rule
159

re: 158

That was a missed opportunity, yeah. There are also 'advanced ordinary' I think, for people who don't get admitted to honours and are taking an ordinary degree, i.e. people who get the straight MA rather than the MA (Hons).


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 12:30 AM
horizontal rule
160

Mods and Prelims are an Oxford thing - no idea what the Tabs do. You do Prelims generally after the first couple of terms; in some degrees, instead of Prelims, you do Mods at the end of the first year. In either case the principle is the same - if you fail, you get one chance to resit, at the end of the year (Prelim resits) or at the end of the summer vac (Mods resits) and if you fail that too, you are out. But once you've done them, just as ttaM says, the slate is wiped clean; you can scrape through Prelims with a Third and then step up the pace and still finish up with a First in Finals.

After Prelims/Mods, you are basically on your own. Most degrees now include some sort of dissertation or research project, but this only counts the same as one of your Finals papers (of which you may well have seven or eight). You'll have tutorials every week or more often, for each of which you are expected to produce an essay or do a problem sheet, and if you are obviously struggling with that or just not turning up then Steps may be Taken.

But they can't (I think) chuck you out for missing stuff - you could spend your second and third years entirely AWOL and you'd still be allowed to sit Finals, as long as you spent the terms within six miles of Carfax Cross (degree requirement so you can't just go and live in London).

But I'd bet good money the mental illness rate is a lot higher at Oxbridge than at other universities, and most of my close friends suffered from depression and/or other problems.

The suicide rate is (or was then) approximately ten times higher than in the rest of the university-age population. Statistically speaking, you have roughly the same chance of surviving an operational deployment in Iraq as an undergraduate degree at Oxford. The gym facilities are probably nicer at Basra Air Base, too, though I grant you Oxford has nicer pubs.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 2:50 AM
horizontal rule
161

I thought that under the Cambridge tripos you could, if you wanted, do your first year in one field and your last two in another.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 4:22 AM
horizontal rule
162

For most of my 3 years at Oxford, because I was the only one doing my particular joint honours course in my College, I had my tutorials alone. So one hour of maths and one hour of philosophy, just me and a tutor each week - that was a pretty big incentive not to look like a complete idiot, though I was never impressive. But I hardly ever went to lectures - especially not in my second year when I was living out of college.

In my 3 years, there were about 110 undergraduates at any one time. We had one suicide and one attempted suicide.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 4:24 AM
horizontal rule
163

Also, how does this work in 4 year courses? I'm pretty sure that people in modern languages at Oxford are supposed to take off after 2nd year and spend a year in the country whose language they're studying before they come back to finish. Greats is a four year degree, and then there are those professional-type degrees. Veterinary medicine takes longer than three years.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 4:25 AM
horizontal rule
164

Depends on the degree. MFL is the same as any 3 year degree (Mods at the end of the 1st year, Finals at the end of the 4th year) - the 3rd year abroad doesn't count for assesment purposes, as far as I know. Engineering and Chemistry are 4 years, and they had Finals which were split over the end of the 3rd and 4th years, if I recall correctly.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 4:45 AM
horizontal rule
165

Classical mods used to be after 5 terms IIRC; Greats after 7. Don't know if this is still so.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 4:48 AM
horizontal rule
166

re: 162

The vast majority of the tutorials I've taught have been one student. That's more or less typical, I think, in philosophy except in those odd cases where there are several students taking the same paper at the same time [not that common in the smaller colleges, I think].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 5:33 AM
horizontal rule
167

Cecily: everyone likes huckleberry products, and Olympia is probably short on them. (They have a different kind of huckleberry anyway: much smaller than real huckleberries and a sort of translucent maraschino cherry red.)


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 6:38 AM
horizontal rule
168

Viz.

Cf.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 6:51 AM
horizontal rule
169

I don't know where the Oxford/Oxbridge high suicide rate myth comes from; I've never seen it sourced, but it seems to be, if anything, spreading and intensifying. I saw some idiot student at an access event last year tell a hundred potential applicants that more people committed suicide at Oxford than were thrown out for not working. There seem to be odd pieces of old research out there (higher rate of successful suicide but lower rate of attempts than their age group) but nothing really to support the myth, and there really aren't many suicides, perhaps one a year-ish (among 15-20k students).


Posted by: Nasi Lemak | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 7:31 AM
horizontal rule
170

166 - everyone else always seemed to be in pairs.
/sulk

I suppose the likelihood of that decreases after the first year when people are choosing different options, so perhaps it was just my perception. I expect I just liked feeling hard done by.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 7:31 AM
horizontal rule
171

170 - yes, I think pairs are the norm in philosophy tutorials - except maybe in the more arcane options? Perhaps this is just in big colleges though.


Posted by: Nasi Lemak | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 7:33 AM
horizontal rule
172

On the original question, practical value is generally compelling to me. So if I'm not already intrinsically interested, it's helpful to have someone [the professor] outline why it might be useful to know/experience/etc.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 7:50 AM
horizontal rule
173

(higher rate of successful suicide but lower rate of attempts than their age group)

That's overachievers for you.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 7:54 AM
horizontal rule
174

This is a fascinating topic for me, because I've always had a really broken relationship to education. Throughout high school and college I was always doing the minimum amount of work compatible with getting decent grades and being able to show off in class, and wildly stressed, procrastinatory, and resentful about what that minimum amount of work was and whether I'd accurately calculated it or undershot and was going to flunk out. (This turned into generally respectable grades -- I've always been fairly good at doing almost no work and getting As anyway -- but it was an unpleasant and stressful process.)

And I have no idea why this is. I'm actually actively interested in most of what I was studying -- I'd be slacking off and not doing the assigned work in a class by reading other stuff on similar topics of comparable difficulty. I'd think I'd be the sort of person who would be in her element in formal education, and would have gone to grad school for the sheer joy of it all, but no. I may have been simply neurotic enough to be unreachable, but if I represent a broad category of student, I'd be fascinated to figure out what went wrong with me and school.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 8:02 AM
horizontal rule
175

It's pretty damn hard to fail Mods, in bullshittable subjects like English or History anyway. We spent the entire term leading up to them playing Age of Empires all night, and still scraped through.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 9:23 AM
horizontal rule
176

What, hypothetically, could have motivated you in a class where you really didn't enjoy the material, if there were no grades?

A hott teacher.

I mean c'mon. That one was easy.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 9:32 AM
horizontal rule
177

Oh, and shoot, pwned by Rob in 2.

But he is right, curse him.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 9:35 AM
horizontal rule
178

LB,

And I have no idea why this is.

It looks to me like you lacked a parent whom you wanted to outdo.

Did you like your parents? That could be the problem.

You lacked proper motivation.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 9:38 AM
horizontal rule
179

re: 171

I had the occasional pair for one of the core topics, but mostly singles. I think my college didn't have a huge percentage of students taking philosophy, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 10:10 AM
horizontal rule
180

174: I feel that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
181

174: I was flippant, although I know for me my underlying anger at my father provided much of my early motivation. I didn't realize that until later, when in my 30s. I'm actually grateful for the motivation and also now have a good relationship with my father. I understand the pressures he had because I have had similar ones, and I understand why he was the way he was.

Aside from that I think some people are more 'generalists' in that they are interested in a variety of things and get bored with any particular subject after awhile. To speak pejoratively they are 'dabblers' but I think in today's quickly changing world the ability and desire to move on and learn new things is actually a good trait to have.

Assuming one is bright and able to learn new things, of course.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 10:48 AM
horizontal rule
182

174, 180: Really, you guys found it stressful? At least I've always been able to enjoy my underachieving.

As for the Oxbridge stuff: our tutorials (wasn't that the Cambridge term, didn't the Oxonians call them something different?) were always in pairs for maths. There were always enough other people in the class to get a pair going, even if your partner was at another college for the more esoteric electives.

Also, no suicides in my mid-sized college during my time there. About 450 of us. I spent a crapload of time at Trinity, and most of my friends were there, but I don't remember them having a suicide during my undergrad either.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 10:53 AM
horizontal rule
183

I haven't been so great with formal schooling since highschool. Being really tired a lot of the time probably has something to do with it. I'm praying that the damn CPAP will help.

I think that I'd have a hard time being motivated in your class heebie. In high school there were certain teachers who had such moral suasion that I'd have been embarrassed not to work hard for them, grades notwithstanding, but it's also the case that I believed that what they were trying to teach me had value. They were generally eccentric types who had control over their curricula.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 11:10 AM
horizontal rule
184

Bostoniangirl,

Assuming you need the CPAP I bet it does wonders. My relatives who have needed it have all declared it has done wonders for them to the point they convinced my to see if I needed one, even though I really didn't and thought I was doing fine without one.

So for many people they are a Godsend. Personally I find I need 9 hours of sleep at night or my thinking suffers. I've gotten by with less, mostly when the kids were young, but I am definitely not my best at 6 hours of sleep a night.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 1:11 PM
horizontal rule
185

182: Oxford - tutorials. Cambridge - supervisions.


Posted by: Nasi Lemak | Link to this comment | 10-24-08 3:42 PM
horizontal rule
186

This week in class I decided it was important that I not read websites on my iPhone while lectures were going on; I really was missing stuff, I figured.

Then I decided the lecture was pretty boring, and my iPhone was shiny.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-25-08 1:37 AM
horizontal rule
187

Trying to get the last word on some old threads, Sifu?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-25-08 1:46 AM
horizontal rule
188

you could browse the material along the topic of the lecture, win-win


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 10-25-08 8:33 AM
horizontal rule