Monday, September 29, 2008

Adventures in TAing, case 4 (in a ? case series)

This being my sixth contract as a University teaching assistant, and my ninth tutorial group overall, I've grown accustomed to what initially seemed an odd and even counter-intuitive trend among first-year undergrads. That is, whether you give them either 1) very narrowly defined parameters and few options for an assignment, or 2) a tremendous amount of freedom to chart their own course and sink or swim, they will invariably want the other option. That is, the students who are directed to choose one topic from a detailed, pre-defined list will complain about how oppressive the (lack of) options are, while the students who are invited to invent their own subject matter will typically demand as much guidance as I'm able/willing to offer. (Important caveat: While many in the former group who say nothing and just follow their instructions generally do turn in something competent - or at least readable - those in the latter group who remain silent and do whatever they please usually produce minor disasters.)

This leads me to only one logical solution, to be implemented on the day when (if) I get to design a course and syllabus of my own: if I want to be despotic and restrict their options to a set number of my own topics, I'll first give them total freedom and then simply wait to be asked to oppress them. (Of course, this blog would be pretty damning evidence in the event that I actually pull a stunt like this...)

No comments: