Friday, June 09, 2006

Teaching Manifesto

There is an interesting post on the Chronicle today called: A Tough-Love Manifesto for Professors. This article urges teachers who have job security (ie tenure) to take a tougher stance with students, to not coddle them, to not treat them like customers, and to insure that when they leave your classroom, their grade reflects the knowledge they have obtained about the subject.

His manifesto reads like this:

I. Students are not customers. Teachers are not employees.
II. Students and teachers have obligations to each other.
III. Here is what I expect from students:
- You will treat everyone in the class, including the professor, with the respect due to all human beings.
- You will attend every class, give your full attention to the material, and conduct yourself in an appropriate manner.
- You will agree to do the work outlined in the syllabus on time.
- You will acknowledge that previous academic preparation (e.g., writing skills) will affect your performance in this course.
- You will acknowledge that your perception of effort, by itself, is not enough to justify a distinguished grade.
- You will not plagiarize or otherwise steal the work of others.
- You will not make excuses for your failure to do what you ought.
- You will accept the consequences -- good and bad -- of your actions.
IV. Here is what students can expect from me:
- I will treat you with the respect due to all human beings.
- I will know your name and treat you as an individual.
- I will not discriminate against you on the basis of your identity or your well-informed viewpoints.
- I will manage the class in a professional manner. That may include educating you in appropriate behavior.
- I will prepare carefully for every class.
- I will begin and end class on time.
- I will teach only in areas of my professional expertise. If I do not know something, I will say so.
- I will conduct scholarly research and publication with the aim of making myself a more informed teacher.
- I will return your assignments quickly with detailed feedback.
- I will pursue the maximum punishment for plagiarism, cheating, and other violations of academic integrity.
- I will keep careful records of your attendance, performance, and progress.
- I will investigate every excuse for nonattendance of classes and noncompletion of assignments.
- I will make myself available to you for advising.
- I will maintain confidentiality concerning your performance.
- I will provide you with professional support and write recommendations for you if appropriate.
- I will be honest with you.
- Your grade will reflect the quality of your work and nothing else.
- I am interested in your feedback about the class, but I am more interested in what you learned than how you feel.

I like the idea of a manifesto and of laying out the obligations that students and faculty have to each other, but I can't imagine putting it on my syllabus. It seems that things would really have to awful and students would have to be constantly failing to meet my expectations before I would take such a step. I would be interested to see how such a manifesto changes the atmosphere of the class. Does it work? Do students become resentful? Do they even understand or care what your manifesto says or means?

I would suspect that if you didn't read it to the students on the first day of class and just listed it in the syllabus then probably 1/2 the class wouldn't take the effort to read it.

Of course maybe I'm fooling myself into thinking that MY classes are different. That because I usually create a good rapport with my students, I don't need such a written document. Perhaps that is my excuse for not holding them to high enough standards, letting them cut too many corners, and letting them feel they are purchasing an education.

I definitely need to think seriously about the implications of taking or not taking such a course of action, because I do believe that professors have an obligation to get students to understand important concepts and learn significant skills and information. And if tough love is more successful at accomplishing that perhaps it is a cop-out to argue that MY classes don't need it.

No comments: