Teaching Insight of the Day

The best way to approach teaching first-year students is to assume they know nothing at all about anything. Then you’ll only ever get nice surprises if you discover that one or two have heard about the Cold War, know their continents, and have heard the word “adverb.”


12 thoughts on “Teaching Insight of the Day”

  1. “one or two have heard about the Cold War”

    Imagine my surprise a year or two ago when I realized students in Poland know almost nothing about the communist period… they don’t know how it happened, or what life was like then or how the country escaped the Soviet orbit. Most of them know a name or two and an event or two and that’s it…

    This is largely due to an ongoing ideological war about who owns the past (and who was and wasn’t part of the resistance) which has resulted in it being excluded from the curriculum…..


      1. “Even in Poland”

        Well there’s tons of stuff they know but there’s a gaping black hole where the years 1944-1989 (and especially 1981-92) are concerned.

        I was recently talking with a student who spent most of the last year at a Spanish university and it seems the Spanish Civil War is only approached in one of two (both very weird) ways.

        the republicans were angels of good and light and the nationalists were evil super-villians with no motivation but evil for the sake of evil
        completely dry emotionless with no value judgements expressed “on this day, there was a fight and this many people died on each side and that’s it, nothing more to know”.

        The recent past is always harder to deal with than the distant past….


    1. “never use an all-or-nothing grading system, never!”

      I can imagine situations where it might be appropriate, but only if it is clearly explained in time for students to drop the course with no repercussions.

      To wait until the semester is well under way to spring it on people is very unethical (in addition to bad teaching).

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Certain types of medical procedures? Certain types of engineering? Technical translation?
          Even some kinds of extreme language teaching (again only under the condition that everything is spelled out clearly right from the very beginning).


            1. “for the purpose of learning a language”

              Not so much for learning, but for some kinds of people wanting to perfect their knowledge such a system might make things more… interesting by creating new pressure. Again, with prior warning only.


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