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Kristan Venegas

Author Information

Dr. Kristan Venegas is a Professor of Clinical Education and a Research Associate in the Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at Rossier. She is an expert in the areas of college preparation and planning, higher education, financial aid policy and college advising.

The Thursday Pop: Teaching, Grading, and Helping Students “Get Their Money’s Worth” or Why I Made 29% of My Students Rewrite a Paper

Today I’m teaching my last formal class of the year. I teach three sections of “Foundations of Postsecondary Education in Student Affairs” and work with 72 students across three class meeting times. I teach these classes back to back on Thursdays so I start with a group at 1:00 p.m., another at 4:00 p.m., and then my last group comes together at 7:00 p.m.

Some students have asked me if I get bored teaching the same thing three times in a row. Other students have asked me if I like one class section the best. I never get bored, and I don’t have the time to like one more than that other because every week the students change and grow.

The 1:00 p.m. section wants dramatic social change and believes that colleges and universities have a responsibility for that; the 4:00 p.m. section usually wants consensus and seeks to understand the role of student affairs in these broad issues; and the 7:00 p.m. section uses their numerous cumulative years of experience in student affairs to deconstruct problems in a pragmatic way.

We’ve talked about the history of higher education, as well as learning, diversity, leadership, and accountability. It’s been a wild ride.

We’ve blamed the “problems” that occur in higher education on the K–12 system, on faculty, on students, on families, on revenue-generating college sports, and on the “economy.” We’ve played around with the idea that it’s colleges’ and universities’ fault that tuition is so high, yet quality is not always verifiable.

I worry about the high tuition, high value part a lot because I am teaching at a high tuition institution. I don’t want to be part of the “problem” of not providing a quality education. I wonder if this was in my students’ minds when I sent an e-mail to more than 20 of them encouraging/requiring them to rewrite their first written assignment for my course.

I know that I had never had a situation in which so many students needed to rewrite a paper. I’ve lost count of the number of hours that it took for me to read over those papers, provide feedback on their drafts, complete a rubric, and then craft policies about rewrites and hold special office hours (twice). I had to track back to their other writing-related instructors this semester to see if they had been given access to the writing preparation that used to reside in my class design.

I’ve spent a lot of time communicating with students via g-chat and in person reassuring them that the rewrite is not an indictment on their writing abilities, and reinforcing the possibility that they hadn’t mastered this particular type of writing skill. We don’t have a group of bad writers (at all!), it’s more likely a group of students who didn’t employ the writing and research tools to meet the standard I’ve set within my course.

Like I said, I’m at a high tuition school, so I think students have an even higher expectation of value and service. But what are the appropriate limits for value and service? When am I making it too easy? When might I be making it so difficult that it’s defeating? Should that even matter?

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One Response to “The Thursday Pop: Teaching, Grading, and Helping Students “Get Their Money’s Worth” or Why I Made 29% of My Students Rewrite a Paper”

  1. We struggle with drawing the line between servicing needs of students and enabling when teaching, and advising. I don’t think anything is too difficult when it’s explained in terms that benefit the learner, and when instructors make ourselves available to support students to reach that benchmarks. Doing too much is allowing students to make up 35% a semester’s work in the final two weeks of classes. It’s lowering standards so that students get a chance to pass the class with what they expect is a reasonable grade. For example, maybe in graduate school students expect no less than a B on anything they put ink into. Similarly, some undergraduates think they can pull Cs by making up half their semester’s missed work, at the 6 min mark in the 4th quarter, by pleading with professors. However, ours isn’t a high-tuition school comparatively, and I don’t hear students’ entitlement to an education worthy of their loan or parents’ benjamins. Plus I work with underrepresented students, who professors say appreciate this opportunity very much. I attended a high tuition school, and can see why there is a need to warrant the cost to students, who can look around and name many less costly places to attend. Even the quality of education gets questioned just because the cost is so high. I don’t like the “customer service” plant that’s growing more entrenched into the language of higher education though, perhaps because I worked in sales and retail. I find that higher education is a far more holistic and beneficial offering to be joined maritally with the retail phrase, “provide good customer service” which I’m seeing is gaining popularity. How about recognizing that we are the face of our institutions and of the college experience; represent ourselves in each interaction accordingly and regard students as adults who deserve respect, support, and engagement to reach the standards set for their excellence in the classroom and beyond.

    11/30/2012 at 6:02 am