OK, I’m not really drowning, as this is my ‘light’ term and I’m also lucky enough to have a TA to share the essays with in my larger class. But working through papers and exams is really sapping my psychic energy right now. I hope–no, plan!–to have the last of the essays done tomorrow. Then I’ll be back! There’s nothing like being immersed in student writing to make you question your teaching and assignment strategies, and so Mark Bauerlein’s provocative post on his own decision to assign “all summary, no critical thinking” in his freshman comp class next time is timely and may provoke me all the way to a post of my own. I’m certainly wondering if the ‘critical essay’ will continue to be a standard part of my assignment sequences, even for upper-level classes. Marc Bousquet’s equally provocative post “Robots are Grading Your Papers!” is also timely: though I’m not (happily) teaching in anything like the kind of mechanical context he describes, and I’m not sure that working with students to produce writing that is more academic is what I want to do, I will be thinking about how to change my assignments to increase the amount of genuine engagement, not just between the students and the material, but between me and the students. I have the very strong feeling this term that I was asking students to do too many things at once that were new, difficult, and poorly understood, and that my own expectations about how they should prepare for and accomplish these things were not congruent with their own habits and expectations. This may be just the usual slump that comes from working through a large pile of assignments in a short period of time, but at this point my own level of dissatisfaction is high enough that I’m pretty motivated to think about how else to proceed next time.
First, though, I have ten more essays to mark. And one revised thesis chapter to attend to.