When students do badly in my modules, I feel frustrated, bewildered and annoyed, and all at the same time. I want to shake students, to sit them down and ask them what the hell they are playing at. And when my emotions cool down, I ask myself if it’s really all my fault. Maybe I didn’t explain the material very well? Maybe I didn’t make clear what my expectations were? Maybe I’m just downright boring and failing miserably to inspire my students?
So I go through an annual academic cycle: it starts with hope and enthusiasm, it’s often followed by frustration and anger and it ends with doubt and guilt. And then it starts again: September approaches, the optimism returns and I look forward to getting stuck in again. There’s a touch of insanity about it all.
At the moment I’m bewildered. How is it that third year students cannot write a coherent sentence even when they’re not under time pressure? How can they persist in omitting units from their axes labels despite my saying, over and over, that they will lose marks if they do so? How can they put the ‘cause’ on the vertical axis and the ‘effect’ on the horizontal axis? How can they, the so-called Google generation, produce documents so badly formatted as to be almost unreadable?
It seems to me that we have an attention-to-detail problem and teaching college students is increasingly akin to teaching children. Yet the world of education is fixated with ‘skills’ like creativity and critical thinking and problem solving as if they were independent of the core attribute of conscientiousness.