Archive for October 21, 2009

On Being Student-Centered when giving out midterm grades

I have probably seen at least 90 of my 100 students in the last two days to discuss their midterm grades with them. As I was doing one-on-one consultations with each one explaining the grading for in-class writing, quizzes, midterm exam, self-study assignments, I had them fill out a questionnaire. My most interesting questions, to me as a student-centered teacher, was to find out the following answers to this question:

“What is your biggest struggle with writing a good, clear essay in English? In Russian? Do you have the same problems or how are they different?”

These are some answers from my masters students:

“I think I lack vocabulary in English, Russian is a difficult language and even writing in Russian is also difficult…”

“…introduction part to body, I usually do not write in Russian, but if I do, the problems are the same.”

“In English to find the right words to form an idea…In Russian to formulate sentences…the problems are almost the same.”

“There is no problem to me writing in Russian, you can see my articles on”

 “The biggest struggle in writing essay both in English and Russian is planning essay and orphgraphy.”

Vocabulary [in English] I don’t have any big struggle with writing essay in Russian.”

“Only problem is the topic of an essay…if I am not interested with it, it is very hard for me to make myself even start writing.”

“My English vocabulary is very, very poor.”

“Lack of vocabulary.”

“I don’t like writing.”

“Biggest obstacle is starting and when I start, the essay writing just flows smoothly.”

We as teachers in the Language Center use the process approach in teaching writing.  I did that same approach successfully back in the U.S. as well as Ukraine.  You need to see each students’ progress from A to Z (beginning of their choice of topic to final product of their paper).  However, one student showed me a glaring example of how to try to cheat the teacher.  I had a very stern talking to with her about how insulting it was to get an already finished paper from her ahead of the scheduled due date.  What was she thinking?  I wanted to see her summaries of two scholarly journal articles plus her working bibliography.  Instead I got a completed paper with the correct title page. I was NOT pleased!

The tipping point for me that this was either a paper she pulled off the Internet or she did this paper before or bought it from a “friend” was that she had not known how to answer a simple question, “What is an in-text citation according to APA formatting?”  She had in her paper, many examples of citations but she couldn’t answer that question in the midterm exam or when I talked to her last night.  I said that she had better get her assignments done the way *I* want them done before I turn in the midterm grades on Friday.

This morning I got an e-mailed midterm exam, late by the way, from one of my writing students who was supposed to have done a 50 minute timed writing back on October 8th.  I conferenced with him yesterday and told him that I had not received it and that I had e-mailed him back on the 8th that I had not gotten it.  No response, not until I saw what he submitted with a reworked thesis statement in the first paragraph and all the hyperlinks of what he had pulled off the Internet and was claiming as his own. 

I e-mailed this particular student that I needed to talk to him.  He will get a stern talking to also.  Obviously, he is a weak student as is the other student from my masters class.  Weak students and weak people go about cheating tactics.  I feel sorry for them but they will have to fail. 

It seems that all my other students appreciated my student-centered approach and would do better to improve their grade for the last half of the semester.  I should hope so, some are not doing their assignments while others are doing a GREAT job. 

Such is life on our campus while the autumn leaves continue to hang in there on the trees.  If this were Minnesota, they would have been long ago wind blown to the ground.  I love it here in Almaty, Kazakhstan!!!

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