Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Three Students

I met with a student about his/her research paper. The assignment asks students to come up with a real world question, for which they don't already have an answer (that's key), do research to answer the question, and then write a paper.

The student started off telling me that s/he had an idea about X and planned to look around and find support for his/her idea.

I tried again to explain that if s/he already thought s/he knew the answer, then it wasn't really a research question, and that the way humans are wired, if we start out looking for the answer we think we know, we'll inevitably find that we're right. That's why science is set up, at least theoretically, to remind people to look for ways to disprove the answer they think they have.

I think the student really "got" some high school practice of deciding what s/he thought about something and mining for support. What I'm saying just isn't getting through. It's gotten through to some of the students, I think, because they're asking real questions and being at least a little suprised at the answers they're finding.


I got a call from someone who wants to audit my Shakespeare course next term. I said the person was welcome as long as there are enough seats and spaces in the room. I thought that pretty much ended the conversation, but no, the person rambled on about how much they love Shakespeare and on and on, for a good fifteen minutes. Now I'm wishing I hadn't said yes. (But, I've had some auditors who were great, and it's all part of my nefarious plan to take over the world for Shakespeare and biking.)


A couple of years ago, a student in my first year special program class completed the assignment to go to two student organization meetings by going to a residence hall meeting; the student became his/her hall representative to the student government, and has continued in student goverment. S/he's passionate about classwork, student government work, and being involved in making things work as well as they can.

We had coffee yesterday, and a nice chat; students such as this one are the reason teaching is worth the low salary and hassle.

I like to think I had some small part in this success story. And when s/he's the governor, I'm going to point and brag.


  1. Huzzah! Success! At least for one out of three, right?

  2. Anonymous12:21 PM

    I had the same problem with research questions last year, and the year before, and the year before that.... Last year I actually made it an assignment - the students all had to hand in their question and I kept handing it back to them until they got it right.