Phi Beta Cons

Re: Teaching Students How to Write

George, you’re exactly right. The only way to address writing is to give line-by-line feedback. We cannot assume that students know what good writing looks like. Every time students pass a written assignment at any level with subpar writing, such poor performance is reinforced as acceptable and the poor writing ability become the next professor’s problem.

Additionally, in regards why many professors shun grading writing, I wrote a fairly self-incriminating essay for NAS that addresses my own frustrations with having to spend much time acting as an English 101 teacher my upper-level classes. The point I made that sums up my difficulties is:

It takes a great deal of mental effort to grade written work properly. I originally wanted to say “it takes a long time” to grade written work, but the time factor is not the main contributor to any time management issue. It takes a long time to record final grades of a large lecture class, but not a large amount of mental effort. To effectively grade a paper of any length, the grader must scrutinize each word. Then the grader needs mental recovery time, as it is difficult to shift gears without clearing the mind. An appropriate comparison is between walking and jogging on a treadmill. Both require exertion, but prolonged jogging cannot be maintained at the same pace as the equivalent amount of walking.

Some weeks, I spend 15–20 hours grading papers. As tempting as it is to grade less writing in favor of scholarly pursuits, I’m not ready to call it quits. The good news that my MBA students do write well, and I actually enjoy reading what they have to say.

Most Popular

White House

Bill Clinton Redux

Stormy Daniels could have stepped right out of the 1990s. She would have been a natural in a Bill Clinton scandal, and, in fact, all the same means would have been used against her. Donald Trump’s tactics in these cases are almost indistinguishable from the Clintons’. The effort to shut down the ... Read More

Encouraging Signs in Iraq

Last year, relations between the Iraqi central government and the Kurds reached what was possibly an all-time low when the Kurds held an independence referendum in which 93 percent of voters opted to secede. The timing was no coincidence: Iraqi forces had retreated from Kurdish territory in 2014 as the Islamic ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Do Not Congratulate

Do you want some good news out of the gargantuan budget bill now making its way through Congress? Buried among the mountains of pork and assorted unmentionables, there is one random provision I really like. It requires the Congressional Research Service -- which does a huge amount of very valuable policy research ... Read More

Thursday Links

It's William Shatner's birthday: Here he is in 1978 'singing' Rocket Man, plus a Star Trek/Monty Python mashup. Sold: Isaac Newton’s Notes on the Philosopher’s Stone. It was a long time before anyone admitted that he was interested in alchemy. High-tech forgery: Computer-generated 'Rembrandt' ... Read More
Film & TV

Superannuated ‘Idol’

In the pilot episode of Fox’s American Idol, Simon Cowell defined the show’s thesis: “We are going to tell people who cannot sing and have no talent that they have no talent. And that never makes you popular.” The show’s producers and its three judges -- Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson -- kept ... Read More