Question About Johnny

I was wondering about the Johnny articles, and the fact that students have really poor writing.  Does this mean that because many students still receive good and passing grades in their freshman writing classes or even higher level courses, that teachers’ standards of grading went down?  The article also mentioned a kind of laziness of the teachers because as the classrooms became fuller, the requirements of writing placed upon the students became much easier for the teachers to grade, so short-answer questions instead of actual essays.  Do you think the grading is reflective on the teachers standards of grading going down with the ability of students to write or rather on their laziness in grading?

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4 Responses to Question About Johnny

  1. blhein says:

    With this question in mind, I think that it is useful to point out that Professors of any sort do not need to be certified in teaching, or have any substantial teaching background, to be able to teach at the collegiate level. Having stated this, I think that the standards have not gone down per say–professors are very knowledgeable in their field of study, I just think that not having any experience teaching does greatly effect their performance of their students in their classrooms.

    We discussed this topic earlier in the semester when we were reading Rose, but I think that the performance of the teacher does greatly effect the students’ performance. It’s not that the teachers’ standards have gone down–I just think that professors these days are pressured by their departments to fulfill other requirements. Here at the University of Pittsburgh, we are one of the leading schools for research…translation: a good handful of the science professors are more focused on their research then their classes. Now I can’t speak for everyone–only in generalities, but I have had three science class (Chemistry and Biology 1&2) where the professor openly said in the giant lectures that they were very busy with their research and to see the TA’s for any questions at more than one point during the semester.

    I’m not saying that research by a professor is a bad thing, because it’s not! It’s great. But they also have to realize that they are shaping the next researchers, and to do so, the students will have to be able to write sufficiently.

    The articles discusses the negative outcomes when having graduate students teach the classes, and I cannot say that I agree with this statement but I can see where they are coming from. Graduate students are busy doing their own work and taking classes, but I wouldn’t call them lazy–more like over ambitious. But can you blame them? I don’t. I think that the solutions presented in the article are noteworthy to try, but it does boil down to the students’ motivation to succeed in writing. No matter how good a teacher is, if the student doesn’t care about improving their writing it isn’t going to happen. So in essence, the students and the teachers must care about writing to change the present.

  2. rad75 says:

    I had a big problem with these two articles as well. I was kind of annoyed that educators were blaming the students for their lack of writing and reading skills when actually it could have been the teachers themselves to blame. They just assume when students walk into class that they know and understand how to write a strong and persuasive paper. Just because high school students are older, does not mean that they can write very well. This is to say that yes, students can be lazy and not want to learn, but the teachers should want to persuade that student out of their unwillingness to not want to learn and provide inspiration that learning is very beneficial. On the other hand, after reading some of these “cases” in the articles, it made it seem like teachers were lazy too.

    I am not exactly sure why students still receive passing grades if it is exclaimed that they have really poor writing. I can only assume that the teacher just have really easy standards and guidelines for writing. Maybe the teachers just hand out assignments and never actually read the writings over and never tell the students how they could make this paper better. If that’s the case when a teacher doesn’t explain to the student how they could make their paper more powerful, the student just assumes that his or her method of writing is correct and continue to us it for all other writing assignments.

    I think that the grading is reflective on both the teacher’s easy standards and the student’s laziness. The assignments must be a challenge for the teacher and the students so they both can learn from one another and apply their leanings to other events. I would assume that some education board must have their own requirements for their teachers to teach to their students. So maybe we can blame them for not giving standards for the teachers. In this case, it seems like it is the teachers faults for not challenging the students writing skills so that the student can learn from their mistakes.

  3. katie says:

    The grading of writing is extremely subjective. I have enough of my own issues with grading to fill this blog, but I’ll address your question—whether the standards have decreased due to student’s lack of ability or to teacher laziness.
    The way I am thinking about it, it may be impossible to tell. Suppose a teacher assigned one of those short-answer questions and gave it an A. Who’s to say that it wasn’t a well written assignment? Good writing can come in brief, terse forms; it does not always stem from lengthy papers. There are major differences between the two styles, however. The components that structure an analytical argument are not always found in a short-answer response.
    But it is important to note that perhaps if a student can write well in a shorter format—get to the point in a clear and concise way—that it signifies better writing. Wouldn’t this be preferred over ten pages of BS? I know I’ve had to do it. It frustrates me when I know I can state and support an argument in significantly fewer pages than I need to turn in.
    The point I am trying to make here is that those short answers might not be a completely bad idea. If there are pressures added to teachers (class sizes, more requirements) that make it IMPOSSIBLE to grade a billion pages of writing, then perhaps the shorter ones are the best alternative to completely ignoring pages of submitted writing. At least with a short paper, the teacher would be able to read the entirety of the paper—not just an introduction. In this way, the student’s techniques and styles could be understood, rather than ignored.
    So it’s not just a sign of laziness or a degeneration of ability. While there could be a decrease in ability, it might be realized more easily in shorter assignments. It’s important to learn to write those longer essays. But realistically, the others might just be more logical for a classroom.

  4. annettevee says:

    Wow, grading. My thoughts on this could, like Katie’s, fill a whole blog! It’s a difficult and subjective thing, to be sure, and one of the trickiest, universally-loathed parts of teaching. Writing is not possible to evaluate on a linear scale–just think of all the variabilities in language, style, argument, investment, and creativity that go into each essay you write–and so it poses a particularly difficult challenge to grade.

    One of the best writing assignments I ever heard of is the 50 word argument: Write an elegant and persuasive argument in less than 50 words. It’s hard, and requires a lot of careful revision. And yet, it takes very little time to read, so it’s a good investment for a teacher with a lot of students. It takes a lot of time to teach writing well, I think, but it’s possible to still teach it well with more limited time; it just takes smarter rather than harder work.