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Thread: the dreaded research paper

  1. #31
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    Feb 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by thuycam View Post
    can you show me some strategies to transform a lesson, a literature lesson more effectively
    If you can get a hold of a used amazon book by Lucy Calkins or Randy Bomer, they might have either specific ideas, or the sense of spirit or tone that's valuable to have in a classroom.

    Without particulars, all I could say is: (1) "ask them questions" instead of lecture and (2) have a variety of activities in any one class meeting -- say, some reading aloud, some writing quietly, some discussion of character and theme, some work in small groups of 4 or 5, some info for them to copy off the board, some passing out of xeroxes, some of you reading off of papers they have handed in, etc.

  2. #32
    Registered User Aiculík's Avatar
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    Jan 2005
    Hm... well, I'm still a student, but I hope I will be a teacher one day, and I'd like to teach literature on university (actually I already got a message from one university they'll have a free place for a reader next year), so I can give you only a student's view, so you might say it's not appropriate, but I felt provoked by those post about how students are lazy.

    In my first year, and even in the second, research paper was real problem not just for me, but for most of students. Especially from English subjects. On high school, most papers we did were something that in English would be called "a report". It was maximum 4 pages long, and usually it was enough to read two or three boks to prepare it.

    But on university, they suddenly required 10 - 15 pages, with at least 10 resources, with very limited use of quotations (paraphrase was usually recquired). And we were supposed to somehow know it. I'm not a lazy student, but this was a problem for first few papers. Professors never said what they wanted, only gave us the task, e.g. in the first year I got the topic "Gulliver and women, 15 pages, 4 weeks to do it". God, what stress that was! I worked so hard on it even read that boring book in Slovak, English, and Croatian so that I could be sure I undertood everything, only to find out it was completely useless, as the professor said she doesn't have time to read papers from external students!!! Now, I'm supposed to do 14 papers in a term, and if I don't do it excellently, it's because I'm a lazy student, and she doesn't have time to read 25 papers in 5 months (i.e. by the end of exam period, and it's o.k.
    (if you don't know what "external student" is - external students have lessons and exams during weekend, because they work during the week but the content and extent are the same as of daily students. Still, some people never miss occassion to belittle this form of study).

    So in my case, it weren't students who were lazy, but professors. From other subjects, we had to hand in papers and of course, pass the exam, and we got one grade for both. But we were almost never told how the paper influenced the final grade. I'm pretty sure most of professors never really bothered to read it at all. But, thankfully, there were few that were really helpful - they explained clearly what they want and how to do it and, for example, made "defence" of the paper part of the oral exam. It was difficult, but at least we knew what was good and what we should try to improve next time.

    And I might add, those professors who gave us the feedback on our papers, are the same that really tried and managed to teach us something - rather than just reciting by heart their own book on the subject (I wish they would read How to Read a Book, I forgot the author, especially the part on "dead teachers!) Those professors who gave us feedback, were usually well-prepared for the lesson, gave us many practical tasks and advices, explaining even things that are not included in textbooks. We dearly love them and appreciate what they do for us, though they are usually very strict and demanding. Those who never gave us clear instruction, or feedback, usually never do anything on their lessons. If I did so poorly in my job, I'd be out after two weeks, yet some of them are teaching for years, or even decades! We usually call them "frozen" professors. I don't think they're all just lazy. No, they are just unable to teach.

    So if you want to help students to do good papers, tell them clearly what you want. You might give them an example of some good paper (one professor did that and it really helped - not that we copied it, it was not possible, anyway - but we saw what level is expected from us. Tell them what is good or wrong - defence of the paper as a part of exam was great thing. It helped professor to find out plagiators very easily, so we were forced to really read books and to think very carefully about our statements. If there is a book about how to write academic papers, how to quote etc. recommend it to them. There are different ways how to quote or rephrase, so be sure you make it clear what way you prefer.

    But most importantly - they can feel right away if you really care to teach them something, or if you think you're too above them - if you're prepared for the lesson, they'll be prepared as well.

  3. #33
    Sweet farewell, Good Nite
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    Oct 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by Aunty-lion View Post
    I know what you're saying Jon, and I totally agree that it isn't up to the lecturers to mollycoddle their students at University level.

    However, my mother is a researcher of and writer about teaching methods, and according to her, it has been found that University level teachers are generally the worst at following the basic principles of good teaching (I am not implying that you are one of these teachers though).
    i hear what you're saying aunty, but i'm not convinced that the teaching methods folks inspired by Dewey are offering anything new. what's that old saying?..."Old wine in new bottles." more departmentalization and promulgation of know-it-all standards. ugh.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aunty-lion View Post
    Apparently the main problem is when lecturers take their title a wee bit too seriously and act as if that is all they are there to do, lecture.
    one of the best colleges in the WORLD is St. John's in New Mexico and Maryland that places teachers in the role of faciliators and active participants in the class discussions steeped in the classics. there are no exams, no papers. the "grade" is based on classroom participation. if i had known about this school when i was applying to college i would have gone there in a second. check them out.

    today's student has the option to go to a four-year college where the majority of courses are steeped in the lecture format or a school like St. Johns. or if they're daring, they'll save their money and obtain a free public library card.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aunty-lion View Post
    If all teachers are needed for is to hand out information, then I don't see why they don't simply email their lecture notes to their students. Reading the information is just as good as hearing it, surely.
    schools would go out of business if all professors emailed their lecture notes. even rigorous lecture courses invite questions at some point in class. one of my professors devoted the remaining 45 minutes to questions/discussion and it worked out great.

    i only imagine what it must have been like to sit in one of Plato's classes, or Aristotle's. just read Nichomachean Ethics, the latter which are students' notes of Aristotle's lectures. to watch the masters laying it all down for posterity must have been quite an experience, even if the students didn't quite realize it then. maybe i'm a romantic in this regard. i dunno.

    anyway, case in point: i had a graduate course by a professor with the name Richard Falk, a human rights scholar. he sat on numerous international criminal tribunals, ad hoc war courts, wrote dozens of books/journals, made TV appearances, and met with leaders all over the world. sitting in that class and listening to his experiences over the years in that field was like listening to Homer sing songs of war. and at the end of the semester he invited his students from three courses to his house for lunch and it turned out he had some big names in the field there. standing in my prof's living room having lunch over a big chat about important world issues was enough to make me feel i got my money's worth.
    **courses like this one are out there; you just have to seek them out at your school like i did and take advantage of them.

    most of what i learned in college took place 'after' class---in the halls, on walks to/from the dorm, in the library, in study groups, over lunch. the classroom provided the structure. being stirred up by the material was the lifeblood of learning, at least for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aunty-lion View Post
    I wish I could remember all the different techniques that the 'ideal teacher' should use but it's late and I'm tired. However, I do remember that modeling (or giving examples) is one, questioning is another, explaining, telling (which is different from explaining. More like "You'll find it on page 10 of your book" etc), directing ("do this" etc) and giving feedback.
    some class discussion is good, but in my case there were always those one or two students who loved to take the floor and hear themselves talk and innundate the class with drivel. i'm just not convinced that classroom 'dialogue' is the way in the American university. in my opinion, St. John's is the exception.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aunty-lion View Post
    Some good teachers do this naturally (hopefully you are one), however, for the rest I believe it would be useful if University lecturers had to undergo some kind of training in these techniques. In my country, University lecturers are not required to undergo any teacher training.

    i disagree. teaching is a calling. you either got it or you don't. and no pricey teaching program is going to inculcate the skills to inspire great teaching.
    Last edited by jon1jt; 06-08-2007 at 02:10 AM.
    "He was nauseous with regret when he saw her face again, and when, as of yore, he pleaded and begged at her knees for the joy of her being. She understood Neal; she stroked his hair; she knew he was mad."
    ---Jack Kerouac, On The Road: The Original Scroll

  4. #34
    Registered User gent258's Avatar
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    May 2007
    "How to read a book" was written by Mortimer Adler who also started the Great Books Program. Today with computers writing research papers is a snap. I went to college when we used typewriters and had to use footnotes; today's MLA parenthetical documentation style is very easy. Of course, students need guidance on formulating a strong thesis. Once the thesis is written, the rest will fall into place. The mistake that many students made is not restricting the topic. I had a student who once wrote on "The American Indian". The paper was a disaster and so was her grade. Because so many students do not read much, they have no idea how much is written on a given topic, or how short their research paper is.

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