Monday, November 13, 2006

welcome back my friends to the show that never ends

And on Saturday morning, the day the paper is due, I have an email in my inbox from a student, with a partial paper attached. The email is long, broken, somewhat incoherent. This student is ill and won't be in class, and she wants to apologize for the incomplete paper she's handing in. She's been confused all semester, and her pride prevented her from asking me for help even though yes, I always made myself availble if anyone needed help. But she was an A student and she had policy as an undergrad but they didn't do papers they did mock trials and yes, she knows it's all her fault, and is it possible for her to pass with the paper she's written, and she just went on forever.

I'm thoroughly disgusted with her and every student that doesn't take the initiative and ask questions if they are confused. Assuming, of course, that they really were confused and not just procrastinating and whining. It is my responsibility to teach, but it's their responsibility to learn. They seem to want to sit back and learn passively, with me shoveling it down their throats. They want to do nothing more than just swallow, and move on.

And what is really bothering me is that these students with the worst problems are defined as 'advanced standing' students. That means that their bachelor's degree was in social work. That's all it takes to get advanced standing, which means the student isn't required to take the foundation (first year) courses, they can move right into the second year advanced courses (my course is a second year course).

This concept is based upon the notion that students take the foundation courses in their last year of a bachelor SW program, so they shouldn't have to take them over again. The problem is, there is a vast difference between taking a course as an undergrad, and taking it as a grad student. Not to mention the concern that not all bachelor's programs are preparing students as adequately as others.

So, these students come in to second year master's courses completely and totally unprepared for graduate work in any way whatsoever. And they flounder and panic and produce work completely unacceptable for second year graduate students. Most students truly need those first year foundation graduate courses to prepare them for the second year advanced courses.

I will no doubt stir up a hornet's nest in my field with my position on this, but I think the 'advanced standing' concept does the students a serious disservice. Unfortunately, the students won't complain, as it gets them through a two year master's program in one year -- less work, less cost. So instead, they will continue to flounder in advanced courses for which they are ill prepared. And as much as I understand and feel for them, I refuse to lower my standards in terms of my expectations of a second year graduate student.

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