Individual Approach in Teaching

“Claire” was a student in my Intermediate Spanish course that I taught during my very first semester at this university. Claire was very smart but hopelessly lazy. The few times she actually bothered to show up for class, she just slept on her desk. She refused to do her lab assignments and never handed in any homework. As a result, her Spanish was very weak and she failed the course. I tried hard to awaken Claire’s interest in the subject but nothing I did had any impact.

Three years later, Claire joined my course on the culture of Spain. This is an advanced course that requires a high level of linguistic competency, so I was worried about Claire. I soon discovered, however, that Claire’s Spanish had improved dramatically. Obviously, my colleagues who have been teaching Claire in the meanwhile found a way to get through to her and make her interested in the Spanish language and culture.

Claire participated actively in class discussions, did brilliantly on the tests, and showed great enthusiasm for the course. I was especially impressed with her beautiful and fluid writing in Spanish. So I decided to support Claire’s efforts and complimented her writing and the great progress she had made on one of the written assignments I returned to her.

That was a huge mistake. It turned out that Claire does not respond well to positive feedback. The day after I gave her the assignment with my praise, Claire sauntered into class late and spent the entire session sleeping on the desk. Since then, she hasn’t turned in a single homework and failed the last mini-quiz. With a single ill-considered paragraph that I wrote praising her progress, I undid all of the good work my colleagues had invested into making Claire a better student.

In the course of my teaching career, I have managed to turn around many students with praise and encouragement. However, this is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Some people are motivated by compliments while other lose all motivation when they are praised. I wish I had invested more time into figuring out the approach that would work with Claire. I have 99 students this semester, and developing an individual approach to each student is not possible. This is the price we pay for taking on too many students and expanding our teaching loads.

Sunday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion

This is what happens to a university that places no value on research. Let this story serve as a warning to all of us.

It takes a Dutchman to make a box of American peanuts sound hilarious.

Even ramps are beautiful in Montreal.

Who but a housewife would throw a hissy fit about a child seeing a condom wrapper? Some people should really try to get a life because being scandalized by condom wrappers is kind of insane.

A small but important victory for a responsible academic. Let’s all follow her example and perform the same small feat next week.

A very insightful post on why many people refuse to read.

Psychoanalysis leads to neurobiological changes in the depressed patients’ brains. (The link is in German.)

Another layer of intrigue has been revealed in the saga of the downfall of conservative academic and rising Evangelical star Dinesh D’Souza, who resigned from his perch atop King’s College today after it was revealed that he had a fiancee while also having a wife. Right Wing Watchreports that his mistress/fiancée, Denise Odie Joseph II, was also married, and said in April that she was going to vote for Mitt Romney, “because [her] husband told her to.” We all have to be grateful to fundamentalist preachers of virtue for providing us with so much entertainment.

Most complementarian evangelical Christian leaders use rape to control women. . . Complementarian leaders, despite their personal feelings about rape, need rape to exist and for it to be a serious threat.”

Just like the existence of rape is convenient for complementarians and patriarchalists, even so the existence of homeless people is convenient for corporate America. What I mean is that encountering a homeless person can make someone like me, a grad student raising two children, feel wealthy beyond measure.”

Ukrainian pseudo-feminists descend on Paris.

Christian culture isolates men and women, trains them to think and act differently, then presents this training as a marriage problem to be solved. Communication is hard, they say. Marriage is hard. After five years of a committed relationship, I can safely say this: it’s not hard. Not at all. It’s way easier!”

The many breaches of ethics that lactivist bullies engage in.

“Using DSM-4 criteria for mental disorders, almost half the people in the US are getting a diagnosis of a mental disorder in their lifetime – and other countries aren’t far behind.”

There is nothing funny about raping men.