On my last post, Kristine commented:
My favorite “finals week activity” was defending to two students why they couldn’t take the lab exams three weeks after all of their classmates took it, just because they realized now that they never showed up for class that week. Whew. Ten minutes each, and as emotionally draining as grading 100 exams.
I feel Kristine’s pain. And, I think this raises the larger question of what the problem is that keeps these students from understanding that “course requirements” are things that are required for them to do.
Seriously, given all the time we academics put into planning a course, working out the most appropriate assignments and the best way to space them over the course of the term, enshrining this in a syllabus and, often, a web page, are the students not reading the information in the syllabus?
Student, week 12 or so: Uh, I just realized that I was supposed to be participating in weekly reading discussions.
Me: But it’s in the syllabus — under “Course Requirements”, under the percentage breakdown of the final grade, and under easch week’s listed assignments.
Student: Yeah, I just noticed that. Is there any way for me to make them up?
Me: But the rest of the class is doing the week 12 discussion now.
Student: Can’t I just post to those old discussions?
Me: That wouldn’t be much of a “discussion,” would it?
Student: So there’s no way I can make that up?
Me: Can you build a time machine?
Do students not have a linear sense of time that allows them to make effective plans? Have they not seen the monthly calendars you can get at office supply stores that let you map out your appointments and due dates?
Do they just not care about their coursework?
Perhaps that’s what’s happening with my students who haven’t bothered to do the research assignment that’s worth 15% of their final grade for the course. If they’re taking the course simply to pick up 3 units of credit and to fulfil the upper division general education science requirement, perhaps they’ve decided that all they need is a C and this assignment is unnecessary. Sadly, most of the people who bagged out of the research assignment also bagged out of short papers and class participation, and got less than full marks on the midterm — which is to say, they may be underestimating how many points they’ll need to earn on the final exam (in some cases, more points than are available to earn) in order to pull out a C when 15% of the final grade is a zero.
Possibly, this means that students who can’t be bothered to care about learning something about science aren’t very good at math, either.
Or maybe, the students think course requirements are always negotiable. Given that students seem. more and more, to see themselves as consumers and their teachers as service providers, maybe they think that haggling is just a normal part of the relationship. If they ask, why shouldn’t they get a special deal? It’s not their fault if their classmates didn’t think to skip the lab test and ask for a make-up three weeks later.
Is there some other plausible explanation for this general pattern of behavior that I’m overlooking? Given how much more common it seems to have become, it seems implausible to me that it all results from personal emergencies.