Monday, September 01, 2014


Last week, while sitting in a meeting about how important advising is, I posted on my facebook about the meeting.  And this weekend, a colleague from a different area of campus (and thus not at the meeting), responded with a question about how we know we need to do better advising.

The follow up of her question was about how reasonable adults might make decisions that go against our advice, but that doesn't mean we did a bad job advising.

It's an interesting point.  And it gets at the ways we faculty folks (and administrative folks, too), are constantly told that we're responsible for it all.  We're responsible for students' learning as opposed to our teaching. 

We're responsible for retention as opposed to advising.

And so on.  I feel like I've been hearing this "responsible for" stuff so long that it's taken hold, even though I resisted.  But it's still there, always there.

In practice, of course, I do hold students responsible, and I respect their decisions, even when they seem unwise to me.  I know there are always factors I can't know in their decisions.

But I also know that there's a point at which I'm being held responsible by administrative people for students' decisions and actions, and it comes back to bite me and my department in nasty ways.  (Last year, they started measuring stuff and then providing funding based on those measurements, as though they're meaningful and worth measuring.)

I think a lot of the reason I feel dread about this semester is feeling the insidious nastiness that's been building in education for a long time.  But for me, I think it's reached a point of inducing my dread.


  1. All the accountability stuff (in K-12 too) is based on flawed models of learning. They need the student to be a perfect passive receptacle in order to hold us accountable. There are all sorts of contradictions around the embrace of active learning and collaborative learning, but the fundamental educational model is of the teacher who provides knowledge and skills, and if ze does so well, students will learn. The common core reflects an implicit acknowledgement that students learn what they are tested on, so if you want skills, that's what you have to test.

  2. From the parental perspective (at least from the K-12 side of teaching), I find it so frustrating that teachers are expected to conform to one method of teaching to all of their kids, as if kids are a blank slate and all learn in the same manner. The amount of diversity in learning abilities and styles is really staggering, yet the teachers must teach the same method, the same curricula to all of their students. It seems like the only variations I've seen are instigated by the more gifted, more insurgent teachers who are willing to buck the system. I feel like I've gotten lucky because my kids are pretty normal and smart enough to learn well almost in spite of the system we're going through. It does make me wonder how they'd be doing if we had followed a less traditional learning path, though...