Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Benefit of the Doubt

My astronomy students turned in their first papers last week. The assignment is an article summary, in which they read a newspaper/magazine/internet piece on an astronomy topic and summarize it in one page. Nothing high stress, but rather my way of getting them to read science in the news. As part of grading, I mark spelling and grammatical errors. I did have a student object to this once, because I'm not an English teacher. Egads! I do think it is my duty to have them write as part of the astronomy curriculum. My physics students also have to write a short paper. I think it's important that students are held responsible for their writing skills, even outside the English classroom. After all, the goal of most composition classes is to prepare the students for their other courses, right?

I receive notices about students who take advantage of campus tutoring to proofread their papers for spelling and grammatical errors. One of these students turned in a paper full of errors. To whom do I give the benefit of the doubt - to the student, who perhaps did not receive the help she needed? Or to the tutor, who perhaps helped, but my student didn't follow through? Sigh. More hot chocolate is required.


Pat. said...

Challenging your students on multiple levels will only strengthen them... (for the axes & knives Battle Royale, of course).

My dad taught High School Spanish, and he also had a vocabulary quiz every Monday morning in Spanish. Many complained, but none of the complaining ever diminished the fact that more and more alumni every year came back to tell him how much they appreciated the vocab quizes.

Dr. Lisa said...

Oh, I know. My physics students both loathe and appreciate the homework that is due every class period. Good for your dad!

Ray said...

Kudos to you for holding their writing to a high academic standard! I'm always bemused when I hear complaints about grammar and style counting because "it's not English class" (and I teach History!). Every thing they write professionally, from business proposals to cover letters to communication with clients (whatever service they may be providing) will reflect their competence, fairly or not. A talented scientist who cannot write clearly and effectively may find her otherwise fine ideas dismissed. Good writing isn't just about being well-educated, it's good business.

PS - Did I see correctly that you're a fan of Bill Simmons, the sports Guy? We must talk.

Dr. Lisa said...

Ray - you and I definitely feel the same way about having students write.

Big Sports Guy fan here. ;)