I just finished grading a batch of assignments from my University of Phoenix Online course (web programming I) and am rather amazed at the number of students who didn’t answer the questions in their answers. I asked questions like “why….” and got answers more akin to “what…”.
This seems to apply across the board to students that I’ve worked with; while some of them are great, pay attention, do the work, and excel at doing good work, many seem to be unfocused, not completely paying attention, convinced that they’re “too cool” to really need to learn, or uncritically accept any random incorrect nonsense they find online.
I recall some students from the last class I taught at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Rather than the typical 30-40 year old professionals in continuing education, these two were maybe 20-23 and they spent most of the class screwing around, reading sports results on the Web, IM’ing pals, and generally not paying much attention to what the rest of us were discussing. One of them had reason, he got it and it was unclear why he was in the class since he turned in great assignments and did all the lab projects in just a few minutes. The other student, however, her work was inferior and she didn’t do very well in the class, and, in particular, didn’t seem to learn much.
Is being cool more important than learning?
Stupid question. Of course it is. It’s the same reason that so many bright kids drop out and slack off with crummy grades in high school: being teased for being smart is miserable and it’s easier to get a “C” or a “D” and be able to gripe about the teacher with your pals than to really apply yourself, get the “A” and risk taunting. One of my family members went through just that experience in high school, where he had excellent grades and ended up highly influenced by a fun-loving, slacker gang and graduated far, far from his potential. He was not eligible for much post-high school other than junior college, and even that didn’t help him break out of the typecast mold.
I believe that instead of worrying about standardized test scores and penalizing schools with more diverse populations (less diversity almost consistently equals higher test scores on standardized tests) we would do much better as a society to laud and reward intellectual success. Our culture as a whole seems to reward and point the limelight at monetary success, not intellectual success, yet surely the foundation of a strong future for our cities, our culture, and our nation is a smart and engaged populace?