I had a conference with a student in my upper level class earlier this term about her essay, which earned an F. She was shocked by the grade. I was equally shocked by the essay. It was creative, but it wasn't an essay, really. It didn't make a point, or work with the text, or work through a process of thinking.
I asked the student about her writing practices, and she gave me the stare of doom. So I asked her if she'd taken our first year writing class. No, she told me, she'd taken an on-line course in high school last year and transfered it in.
There are two problems here. First, what's a first semester, first year student doing in an upper level course? Bad advising, I'm guessing? And second, what did she learn in that on-line writing course?
It's the second I'm thinking about today, because I'm looking at the transcript of a new lit major advisee who's come in with all sorts of college credits taken while in high school. I see a fair number of students with additional credits; I'm guessing it's not all that unusual.
I think there's a big difference between high school and college level learning; a lot of that difference has to do with the difference between absorbing factoids and learning why people think something is or isn't a factoid, or should or shouldn't be practiced. I want college level students to be able to justify their thinking, and given my field, they need to be able to justify it in writing and orally.
That's a huge transition from high school learning, which is far more absorbing factoids and learning skills (math skills, for example). We read and talk about the differences in my first year writing course, and students seem to begin to recognize how the differences play out in their work in various classes.
The problem is that the AP type courses that students transfer in don't seem to push them to a college level of learning, and so they're basically telling students that they've had a college experience without giving it to them. That's bad enough at a public high school. Even worse, the on-line course my student took charged good money for those credits.
It seems to diminish their real college experience, yet they don't recognize that until they've been in college level courses for a while.
I wonder if they're taking these courses because the public school classes are generally uninteresting, and AP somehow makes them palatable? Or are they under some pressure thinking they're going to be competing wildly for placement in a college or university?
(Because, really, unless they're aiming for an ivy league school, the competition seems hyped rather than real. Certainly we accept about half our applicants, and about half of those choose not to come, presumably because they got in somewhere else they prefer. But colleges and universities work HARD to get more applications--even from very unqualified students--so that they can show how selective they are. But this is a rant for another time.)
On average, what kinds of experiences do you see your students from AP classes having? Are they better or differently prepared for college learning? Do they actually seem to have had a college level learning experience?
(I'm especially interested in lit experiences. It seems that my students are all basically taught that the only way to read is to identify with the protagonist. That means male students are basically taught that they shouldn't bother with books about females, and female students are taught that they should learn to identify with male characters, because, hey, male experience is human experience. Isn't there more to reading than that?)