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It's been fascinating reading the comments on this topic! Here's my two cents....

1. When I started teaching at my community college, 21 years ago, I remember the
veteran instructors saying that the quality of students had really gone down. They
seemed motivated and well-behaved to me. Now 21 years later, I'm saying the same
thing. So at least on some level, maybe it's relative.

2. I agree with those who said it's important to make your classroom 'rules' clear
at the beginning of the semester, and then enforce them consistently for the
students who need to test rules.

3. I have learned not to assume anything. I encourage prompt arrival to class by
collecting homework at the start of class. I do not accept homework that is late. I
have learned I need to have a lengthy discussion with students about the definition
of 'late,' since many of my students think that arriving within 'X' minutes of
class starting time is not late!!!!! I literally write on the board that my class
starts at 1:00.000000000 pm. There is NO penalty for arriving early. :)
However, if they arrive late, the only 'penalty' is not being able to turn in the
homework. (They have to do a bonus assignment if they want to make up those
points.) I make no judgments in my class about which are the 'good' and which are
the 'poor' excuses. I admire instructors who can sort that out. I've never been
able to. So, you're either there or you're not, and I always assume you had a good
reason for missing class, and I never make exceptions to my policies about no
makeups on tests or homework, and my 'minus points' for missing class (see #6
below).

4. I think working in a California community college has at least one rather unique
issue. California's community colleges are very inexpensive for residents.... One
3-unit class costs $33.00. (That was NOT a typo... yes... $33.00!) Unfortunately,
my younger students have been brought up in an environment which makes a direct
connection with how much something costs, its value, and how much time and effort
is involved. (For example, for $75 for a concert ticket they are asked to make
about a 4 hour time commitment.) Because so much of California community college
expenses are subsidized through state taxes, many students only want to make about
a $33 commitment to a course that lasts 16 weeks! I feel our inexpensive
post-secondary opportunities are somewhat of a double-edged sword.

5. I have found that most of my students believe that in college students don't
have to attend all class meetings. (I think some of my colleagues think that, too!)
I disagree. I tell my students that if they make a commitment to attend all
meetings of their college classes, they will find them to be less confusing and
easier! It seems my students think that I am just paid to show up and lecture at
them twice each week from 1-2:30pm. I explain to them that college professors have
a 48 hour story to tell that is broken up over 16 weeks. The story will only make
sense if they are there for each of the segments. They seem to be quite surprised
by this. (Actually, I create an analogy on the board, using a recent film, such as
TITANIC. I tell them about a person who thought the movie was confusing and
unclear. Then I write down the starting and ending time of the film, and show that
he arrived late, left several times to answer his pager, get food, have a
cigarette, call a friend, go to the bathroom, etc. Students then see how he might
have found the movie confusing, and I explain that as teachers, we are each
responsible for a VERY LONG MINI-SERIES that will be confusing unless they hear the
whole thing.)

6. Someone mentioned the researched advantages of positive over negative
reinforcement. As you can probably tell, my classes are points-based. (I've found
that many of my students believe they are the victim of their professors' grading
'power.' By using points and requiring that they make choices about what to do /
not do in the class and keep track of their points, they learn that a grade is
something that they create. When students miss a class meeting, I deduct 10 points
from their total points! That seems to send them a very clear message about
attendance. (Interestingly, much more clear than telling them about the importance
of regular attendance.) One semester I tried the more positive approach of giving
+10 points for each class meeting attended, rather than the negative points. It was
the only semester I ever had an attendance problem, and I never tried that again,
research or not!!!

7. Finally, some have talked about the instructor modeling promptness and regular
attendance, etc. I completely agree. I also feel it's my responsibility to make
each class worth attending in terms of content and style, so it's not just about
the points.

I'm not suggesting that other instructors adopt any of my policies... I'm just
sharing what I do in class, and that it seems to 'work' for me.

(stepping down off my soapbox.....)  -Dean Mancina, Professor, Golden West College



Daryl Stephens wrote:

> Recently several of my colleagues and I had noticed that there seems to be a
> great deal more immature behavior than usual among our students this semester
> --mostly talking in class and coming in late or leaving early.  At our state
> developmental conference last week, I talked to instructors from several
> points in the state, and they had noticed the same problems--actually having to
> ask students to be quiet or leave the room if they were going to have
> non-content-related conversations during class.
>
> Is this a problem nationwide this year?  (I think this year's college freshmen
> are the group that were in fourth grade the last year I taught fifth grade in
> another state, and I remember that bunch being less well-behaved than most
> groups.)
>
> Daryl Stephens  <[log in to unmask]>
> Assistant Professor (math)
> Division of Developmental Studies
> East Tennessee State University
> Box 70620, Johnson City, TN 37614
> Office phone (423) 439-4676   Fax:  (423) 439-7446