Thursday, October 02, 2008

Perceptions of 'a lot of students'

I had an interesting discussion in the work room today.

A colleague from another department commented that she'd like to do writing assignments, but she "has so many students".

Many of you know right where this is going. Rest assured, she was new and I was tired and had my hands full -- I didn't spell out in excruciating detail the systematic inequities and outright bullshit logic that is our course cap policy. I spared her the shame of knowing that the bald one-boobed woman down the hall has a course release and still has almost twice the number of students she does. She's new, she doesn't know what she stepped in -- so I let her off easy.

I know about how many sections she has and how many students are in each one. Instead of the rant I just looked at her and said, "yea -- I know, I have ethics classes with 50 students".

Folks, she has 3 sections, 32 students each ( I know, I just internet-stalked/researched the number). I have about that, after drops, in two of my ethics classes. Plus I have 80 logic students and am department chair. Without the department chair course release I'd probably have another 50ish ethics or intro students.

I assign writing. I don't think I can assess philosophy courses without writing.

Each ethics student will do at least 12 pages of paper writing and about 10 pages of typed take-home exam writing. About 1/3 will do at least 22 pages of paper writing, the other 2/3 will be part of a presentation. Don't do the math - it will make you ill.

Logic students don't do writing, but I grade a heck of a lot of logic quizzes. All of them by hand. They can't be done by machine, at least not with the tools / software I have.

Last week I discussed class size with my dean. She's now taking the position that it's all about money. I think it is really unfair to our students that the educational sacrifices have to come out of their hides.

To be honest -- if they'd add two students to the large department's significantly smaller courses, we wouldn't have to have 50 per class so that the college can make ends meet. We could actually help teach writing across the curriculum. As it is, I make minimal comments about form and focus on their demonstration of understanding the content.

But -- back when these things were decided, someone who is no longer at BNCC -- and hasn't been for 6+ years -- didn't have the political clout (or guts, perhaps?) to object to having such large classes. As a result, philosophy students at BNCC will continue to get the short end of the pedagogical stick -- at least in Ethics, Intro to Phil and World Religions.

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