Top Worst Assignments by Josh Thomas

04/04/2012 - 10:59

Josh Thomas’ Top Worst Assignments (And Assessments)

Joshua Thomas/Undergrad/Social Studies

Honestly, Flip Side, I could sum up this article with one sentence: “Alright everybody, get into groups.” I know most professors have an obligation to research that takes a higher priority than teaching a class, but this is Eau Claire, the place where all the professors are teachers. It certainly helped me in my decision to come here, only to find myself facing the same boring home and classwork day in, day out. If you haven’t experienced at least half of these overused and uninteresting “default” assignments, you’re in a far more interesting program than Josh Thomas, the tall kid with a tiny afro, is in.

Assignment #1: Small-Group Discussion. Every. Goddamn. Class. Every social studies class, every English class, every class that can possibly have it has it, week after agonizing week. Professors, I don’t think anyone stays on topic for more than five minutes on a good day and the rest of the time is spent talking about our weekends or complaining about your stupid assignments where you pair us into groups every week. How has this practice survived for as long as it has without any of you realizing how little is learned compared to how much time is spent with us in groups? By the way, when you ask if we need more time, we’re going to say yes because it means we can keep chatting with each other. Unless your plan the whole time was to throw away a quarter of the class time because you didn’t have anything planned, in which case, that’s fairly genius. As a future teacher, I’m definitely taking notes.

Assignment #2: Research Papers. Sometimes I wonder why oh why we need to do so many research papers when so few of us plan on ever doing research. I think it’s important to know how to do a research paper, but when every class you take assigns one, you begin to find yourself full of contempt for them. I’m just finishing up my capstone; it’s a forty page research paper. No research paper I have ever done prepared me for it and no research paper I ever do for a class here will make me any better at research papers. It’s like nobody realizes that everybody assigns research papers and feels the need to assign them, or like nobody feels like thinking up of an assignment when they can keep us busy for a week or two researching some obscure thing only to forget about it later in a rage-induced knowledge purge.

Assignment #3: Group Projects. Has any assignment ever wasted more class time? Let’s take a week out of class to listen to our peers teach us about something instead of the professor, also known as days that are safe to skip. One question per project on the test isn’t even worth trying to get right provided you’re doing well enough in the class. Words do not do justice to how utterly boring and useless it is for students to spend valuable class time trying to educate us on a topic that their only sources for were taken either from Wikipedia or the first page of an Academic source. I’d say the A groups actually read through all the information, while the B+s did a good job skimming for key phrases. Maybe professors just grow tired of doing their jobs for a week, that’s honestly pretty understandable; I don’t feel like teaching half the people here either. Ultimately most group projects are only challenges to a student’s day-planner and nothing else. They almost have to be that way, because if a student could do a better job teaching a subject than the professor, our higher education system would only have sports to brag about. Uh-Oh. Also, group evaluations? I seriously hope you guys don’t think that we’re not going to all give each other high scores unless we’re really pissed.

Assignment #4: Peer Review. There is probably one person’s opinion on our work that we care for, our professors. If we can’t be bothered to have someone we trust look over our assignment then so be it, maybe we lose a few points but it’s far better than listening to every single person in a class talk about something they do not care about in a critical review. What in the hell do we know, and more importantly, care, about every single person in our (increasingly) large classes and how good or bad their papers are? We can peer-review ourselves, and sometimes I’d prefer someone outside of the class looking at my work than someone inside. If I ever plan on publishing something I write it’s going to need to be readable by a regular person, I’d imagine. Of course, if you’re tired of grading papers yourself, it’s certainly a nice breather to force it on the students. By the way, in the world of electronics, it doesn’t seem like a good idea for every paper every week to be printed off for every student. I’m gonna need to get more copy paper, since because we still double-space, every ten page assignment is actually a twenty-pager.

Assignment #5: Personal Reactions. I don’t know what I thought about the article. I don’t have any questions about the article. I don’t have any connections to make from the article to topics in class because you’ll just tell me about them anyway. Well actually I do, but not enough to feel compelled to write a long essay about it. Professors, do you really enjoy reading thirty odd papers on a bunch of bullshit we figure sounds like an appropriate reaction, or can you honestly not trust us to read the assignment and take away from it something that doesn’t need to be spread out into three to four pages? If it’s the latter, I don’t think reaction papers are the best way to do this and if it’s the former, aren’t you wasting even more time than we are, professors? I literally can’t explain away rationality for the amount of reactions papers that classes assign.

Flip Side, I feel like these assignments comprise most assignments and that isn’t a good thing. All of my education courses show examples of good teachers and these teachers engage their students in what they’re interested in and what’s relevant to them, and most of them make creative assignments. This isn’t something we’re just expected to figure out how to do, it’s what we’re being trained to do for them. Professors, I know, aren’t high school teachers and aren’t trained in teaching, but despite all that they are, in fact, teachers who we are trusting with our time and money. I sincerely hope I never tire myself out so much I need to resort to these assignments over my own ingenuity.

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