Re: grades

Jeffrey R Galin (galin+@PITT.EDU)
Fri, 23 Aug 1996 09:13:53 -0400

Dave wrote:

> If the student was allowed to write about
> something authentic and engaging to her, constrained only by her efforts
> and the efforts of her colleague/teacher to help her improve writing to her
> goals -- she would learn, not merely earn a grade.
> Ah, Utopia. I've been there, but it isn't easy to get to and I haven't been
> back for eight years or so.

While I understand the frustrations of overly regulated
composition programs and the awkward positions they put students and
teachers, I have to say I don't believe the myth that if you give them the
freedom they will write in spades. Engaging issues come in all kinds of
forms, many of which do not necessarily involve students making choices.
Given the opportunity, however, I would agree that all students would like
to have a say in what they must write about, even if it is a choice among
topics that the teacher suggests. Now I am not necessarily advocating
that teachers dictate writing topics. I am saying that the "liking" that
Bradley and I mentioned previously can occur in a wide range of
pedagogical structures. There is no need to seek an unreachable utopia,
or even pine for one when alternative course structures may accomplish
similar results. While you are working on issues that interest you as a
teacher and your students, you can also be working to change the confining
stuctures that you know prevent your students from reaching their
potentials as learners.

To respond to Steve: what current issues interest you that you
think might also interest your students? Why should students do all the
choosing? If a teacher is not interested in the topics or approaches
students take to issues, how effective can she be in pushing students to
reach their potentials? Certainly she can help them achieve some level of
success, but that infectious enthusiasm we talked about in "liking"
usually only exists when teachers and students are mutally invested in
classwork. So if we are going to talk about what makes for good teaching
and learning, why not start where students and teachers are both excited
by what is being discussed. How do we get there? How many diffent ways
can we get there? How realistic are we being when we work with our
students to figure out these . . . uhhhh . . . learning places? And what
do some of these learning places look like?

Hey Eric, is this the kind of topic you wanted to discuss for a
Tuesday Cafe? I'd be up for it.