"worksheet for students: am i insane?"

The aforementioned Jill Walker has posted a fascinating article entitled “worksheet for students: am i insane?” No, she’s not insane, although some of my students think she’s misguided. But I think she’s on to something.

Take a good look at her key document: a sample workplan for one week’s worth of work expected from her college students. This exceptionally thorough effort exemplifies all that’s expected in the current American trend toward standards-based education. (I don’t know whether the trend has actually reached Norway or not; perhaps this is merely a parallel development.) At Weston we are encouraged to share our agenda and goals at the beginning of each class; the students are entitled to know where we’re going, why we’re going there, and how we’re going to get there. But Walker does us one better: she outlines the week’s tasks, expected times, and learning outcomes in extraordinary detail. Since her document for college students was inspired by one given to her fifth-grade daughter, I figured I would split the difference and ask my tenth-graders what they think of it. By and large they thought that they would feel micromanaged if I adopted such a system. (They didn’t use that word, but that’s clearly the gist of the majority’s feelings.)

Walker poses the following question:

…my impression is that students don’t do work outside of the classroom because they don’t really know what they’re expected to do. (Is that true?)

I will reply with a resounding yes! Both my honors students and my college-prep students (Westonese for non-honors) have trouble knowing what they’re expected to do and how they’re expected to study.

Walker goes on to wonder…

I’m not sure yet whether this is extra work for me or whether it will help make teaching easier for me.

I suspect that the answer is once again yes — to both of the implied questions. It would definitely be extra work for the teacher (by far the biggest reason why I’m reluctant to try it), and yet it would make teaching easier in the long run. Anyway, read the article and the document, and pay particular attention to the extensive comments to Walker’s post, including her replies to the comments. It’s good food for thought.

Categories: Teaching & Learning