the pedagogic problem & the facts of the biz.

Greg Nowell GN842 at CNSVAX.Albany.Edu
Thu Feb 11 14:06:52 PST 1999

Reasons for social promotion in the university:

1) The dept is expected to have X many majors. 2) Flunking lots of students drives the majors to other departments, leading to cuts in faculty lines. 3) Flunking lots of students causes them to line up at your door complaining. 4) Flunking lots of students drives down the numbers on your course evaluations which are used in promotion and hiring decisions. 5) Flunking lots of students ultimately forces the univeristy to recruit more aggressively to maintain its total inventory of paying bodies. More aggressive recruitment leads to the less qualified bodies.

Notwithstanding which: 1) In my dept we all seem to have a B- curve. No one said we should. It just works out that way. 2) At my skool about 40% of the beginning undergraduates never finish. This is comparable to many other big public skools. A lot of flunking goes on.

My personal tendency: Make the courses harder and easier. Fewer assigned pages (I'm down to about 80-100 per week from 150 in my days of hope) but harder texts. Put the good stuff out there for those that want it. Keeps me more interested, too, which allows for more energetic presentations.

-- Gregory P. Nowell Associate Professor Department of Political Science, Milne 100 State University of New York 135 Western Ave. Albany, New York 12222

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