Archive for the ‘University of North Georgia’ Category

Really?   2 comments

I teach challenging courses.  This is appropriate, for I teach at a university.

I have noticed steeply declining grades and quality of writing during the last few years.  I should not have to define words such as “partisan” and “meddling.”  This is interesting, given that most of my students are recent graduates of local high schools with high scores on standardized tests.  I know that the way to such high scores is to teach the tests.

Many of my students blame me for their poor academic performance.  They wish that I would send them notes via email.  They pine for PowerPoint.  Some of them wish I would teach a textbook.  (I assign a free textbook and recommend it as a reference for them, though.)  Some students even ask if they may see the test questions before the test or if they may photograph tests.  I refuse, of course.

To those who blame me for their substandard academic performance and wonder how to succeed, I say, ask the pupils who earn grades such as 88 and 94 on tests.  I say to study well and often.  I say to read a dictionary.  I say to learn proper English.  I say to accept responsibility for one’s own education.  I ask, where do you think you are, your old high school?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

Posted November 7, 2019 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

Temerity   4 comments

The temerity of some postsecondary students never surprises nor ceases to appall me.

Late last semester, I decided to abandon written assignments in my (history) courses at the University of North Georgia (the Oconee Campus, to be precise), effective this semester.  The cumulative effect of so much bad writing and inability or unwillingness to follow the assigned style manual, combined with persistent (and frequently denied) plagiarism, wore me down.  I took pity on myself.  I stripped out the essays, the book report, and the weekly quizzes, and replaced them with four tests, including the final exam.  The restructuring of my courses has necessitated the rewriting of my teaching notes (in progress during this semester), as well as the writing of possible test questions before and after classes.

The first test of 50 questions for Monday, February 4.  Grading will be easy, for I know where the Scantron machine is on campus.

My test bank for the first test has grown to more than 50 questions.  After I have mentioned the test bank in class, some students have asked if I will post the test bank on Distance Learning (D2L), so that they may study the questions.  I have given these pupils the looks they deserve.  No, I have said, pupils will see the questions on February 4, when I distribute the tests.

I am not alone in noticing the sense of entitlement rife in the undergraduate population these days.  My disgust with this attitude is evident in my new syllabi, which contains a bullet list that begins with the mantra,

You are not entitled to….

Sometimes I think about younger generations and feel generally positive about the future.  On other occasions, however, I ponder certain young people and mourn for the future.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 29, 2019 COMMON ERA

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Posted January 29, 2019 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

Students’ Individual Responsibility   3 comments

Above:  A Portion of My Home Desk Area, November 5, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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When I was an undergraduate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, taking upper-level history courses, a research paper was part of every such course.  The format was Turabian, of course.  In 1993-1996, my time at Valdosta State, I used an electronic typewriter to create my written assignments.  Almost always the professors were kind enough to permit endnotes instead of footnotes.  Those professors also never took any time to explain the Turabian format.  Doing so was not their job, and I never imagined that it was.  No, my responsibility vis-à-vis formatting was to consult and follow the style manual, then in the fifth edition.  My copy of the style manual was an essential volume in my library.

Many of the students I teach at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia apparently lack the initiative to consult the current Turabian manual (ninth edition) or an online Turabian guide.   Many of them seem to think that my job is to tell them everything about the Turabian style, especially with regard to footnotes (easy to do via computer) and bibliographic entries.  Many of them ignore my written guidance (more than any of my professors gave, that is, none) and plead ignorance.  Yet ignorance, especially the variety born of laziness and apathy, is not a good defense.

Many of my colleagues and I see the same disturbing pattern:  pupils, overall, expect proverbial hand-holding through tasks that should be simple for college students yet prove challenging.  Furthermore, proverbial hand-holding often does no good anyway, based on results.

As I tell students, the more they put into their education, the more they will get out of it.  Regardless of what they did or did not learn at their high schools (some of which report high test scores), they are responsible for showing the necessary initiative.  Instead, many of them give up and avoid taking any of my courses again.

I accept my responsibility to my students.  They deserve my best efforts to prepare them for the world.  One lesson I hope I teach is the importance of showing initiative.  Another lesson I strive to teach is working hard through struggles to emerge better off in the end.

I ponder the causes of the problems I recognize in many students.  A partial list follows:

  1. The sense of entitlement commonplace in Millennials;
  2. The results of helicopter parenting;
  3. The failures of schools, especially the coddling of students, often for the purpose of raising scores on high-stakes tests;
  4. The endemic lack of time-management skills;
  5. Short attention spans; and
  6. The plethora of distractions, mostly technological.

Responsibility is both collective and individual.  Regardless of the negative influences of others on one’s life, one does have much agency.  Those other influences may not cease to exist, but one can, at least, consult and follow a mandated style manual in a university course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Generational Experiences, Memories, and Knowledge   Leave a comment

Tomorrow I will begin to teach my Fall Semester 2018 sections of United States History I (through 1877) at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia

Whenever I prepare lessons, I think about generational experiences, memories, and knowledge.  The birth years of my students range from 1995 to 2001, with the greatest concentration of in 1999 and 2000.  Given that my memory reaches back to the 1970s, I am beginning to feel relatively old.  I find that PowerPoint is not a useful tool for teaching history; besides, most people who give PowerPoint presentations seem just to read their slides.  (I can read slides; why are people reading them to me?)  Neither do I teach from a script.  No, I teach from skeletal notes.  This means that, after I prepare and as I teach, I speak not quite extemporaneously.  I understand the material, but have no prepared comments.  This means that I have to watch my references.

Technological and cultural references are especially tricky.  I recall that once I confused a student when I said “typewriter.”  My Saturday Night Live references from the Dana Carvey-Phil Hartman era fall flat as nobody recognizes the reference to the Church Lady.  (“Isn’t that special?” “Could it be Satan?”)  These students have no memory of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Most of them have little sense of historical perspective; the 1990s might as well be ancient history for them.  If they do not remember it, it is ancient history, by their standards.  Books seem to be objects of curiosity for many of my students, who are addicted to screens anyway, and who mistake searching via Google for conducting research.

I come from a certain bookish background and a particular time.  Nine thick dictionaries and a thesaurus are on my desk.  I do not need nine dictionaries, but I like them.  The smell of old paper inspires great joy in me.  I like to hold a book. read, and turn pages.  I have no television or streaming service, and want none.  Days pass without me turning on my television set.  I enjoy screening foreign art movies as well as Marx Brothers films.  The original, British version of House of Cards (all three miniseries) is superior to the American version, I know.  Torchwood:  Children of Earth breaks my heart every time I watch it.  Tom Baker is the best actor to have played the Doctor; that is obvious.

I perceive the world differently than my students do partially because I have more and different experiences than they do.  My students are, for better and worse–hopefully more of the former than the latter–part of the future.  I hope to contribute to the shaping of that future, for the better, as I pass on to my students much of what I know.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Unprepared for College, Part II   Leave a comment

Spring Semester 2018 at the University of North Georgia is nearly over.

This night I have concluded the process of grading final essays and posting all grades at the proper electronic destinations.  The contrasts between two classes have proven to be quite dramatic, by the numbers.

Consider these numbers, O reader:

Class Grade = A

  • Class I–46%; Class II–27%

Class Grade =B

  • Class I–30%; Class II–6%

Class Grade = C

  • Class I–8%; Class II–17%

Class Grade = D

  • Class I–4%; Class II–0%

Class Grade = F

  • Class I–13%; Class II–50%

Plagiarists on the Final Essay

  • Class I–4%; Class II–22%

Plagiarism results in a zero on the assignment in question and an “F’ in the course.

Each class has its distinct collective personality.  That personality comes down to the luck of the draw–who enrolls in it and who stays.  I present the same material to the different groups and observe different results.  These results force me to conclude that more than half of one of these classes was not prepared for college.

I also notice that many students have little or no concept of plagiarism, despite my oral and written explanations of it, as well as the efforts of others to explain it.  They need to learn that concept now.  I wonder how many of them will learn that lesson now.

The semester is over.  Now I enjoy that fact.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

Posted May 3, 2018 by neatnik2009 in University of North Georgia

Tagged with

College Students and Deadlines   Leave a comment

Plus a Complaint Regarding a Related Matter

I teach undergraduates at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia (UNG).  Every semester I deal with students who seem to think that deadlines are friendly suggestions.  This is hardly a new problem.  It is certainly not unique to UNG or the Oconee Campus.  It does seem, however, to be getting worse.  Conversations with other members of the faculty prove that they are dealing with the same problem, and that they think it is getting worse.

Today, although not a teaching day, is certainly a working day for me.  Today is, to be precise, the deadline for Essay #2, due at turnitin.com by 10:00 p.m.  Today is also the last of five days to submit that assignment.  For anyone to receive an extension from me requires a desperate and unavoidable situation.  Experience teaches me to expect at least one student lacking such an emergency to ask for mercy.

I know I missed the deadline,

this student will write.  I will answer,

Yes, you did.

Then I will mete out the academic penalty.  Then some of them will not submit an essay.  That grade is automatically a zero, of course.

Based on my experiences with students and conversations with colleagues, I can only conclude that many students are accustomed to requesting deadline extensions for the flimsiest of reasons and receiving them.  I hear from people close to many local schools that those institutions of education are, for a lack of a more precise term, jokes.  That certainly explains many of the students who crash and burn in my courses.

I have responsibilities to students, just as they have responsibilities to themselves.  I am responsible, for example, for teaching them what they need to know–in this case, the importance of deadlines, which matter in the real world.  As much as I seek to build people up and help them achieve their potential, I understand that I am doing nobody any favors by engaging in proverbial hand-holding and spoon-feeding–certainly not in my capacity as a classroom instructor.  So I do not do that.  Society needs for people at least 18 years old to be functional adults.  College students have the responsibility to be functional adults and good pupils.

I know that I will read complaints about having required students in a history course to have used the Turabian format then having held them accountable for not doing so, despite the fact that I referred pupils to online guides to that format and showed them printed style manuals.  That, however, is a different, but related, matter.  I get the impression that certain students have never had to read and follow instructions or face the consequences.  It is better for them to learn that now than later, in the real world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

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In Praise of Books   Leave a comment

Above:  Five of My Books, August 3, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I come from a bookish family.  I recall the old family house in Summerville, Georgia, before my grandmother Taylor died, the structure stood vacant, and vandals burgled it (oddly, without any of the neighbors noticing).  I remember opening closets and finding bookshelves (full of books, of course) built into them.  My love of books is learned.

I, as a one trained in history, harbor strong suspicions of technology without resorting to joining the ranks of Luddites.  Technology provides tools, many of which I find useful.  Other tools, however, do not interest me.  Some of them are counter-productive.  A printed and bound book is, under the proper circumstances, of more value for a longer period of time than any electronic version of a book.  The former certainly requires less technology–such as glasses and a lamp, perhaps–to access it.  Although the Internet is a wonderful resource for reference purposes, when one knows how to use it properly, I prefer reference works when possible.

I notice that many of my students–some of them, by their own admission, not avid readers–seem oblivious to the presence of books as sources for their essays.  It is their loss.  They do not understand the pleasures of holding an old book and smelling the pages or admiring its design.  These students are, to borrow a term, digital natives.  They are not always adept at interpreting information well, analyzing sources properly, and appreciating the riches of well-edited reference works.  I still swear by my sets of Americanas (1962) and Britannicas (1968), encyclopedias more detailed in certain ways than any Internet resources I have found.

Furthermore, despite the digitization of many volumes at websites such as archive.org, an invaluable resource, not everything is there.  And, even when a particular book is there, a hard copy is superior and certainly easier on one’s eyeballs.  The physical book is also tactile; that is a virtue.

Books are superior to the alternatives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

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