I attended a presentation today that just didn’t sound right. It was one of several about teaching and learning, & I’m afraid that if I’d been doing a formal appraisal I’d have marked it down.
Why? Well, for starters the presenter seemed a bit confused about IP & copyright. (OK, they had a fairly jokey way of presenting that could have clouded things, but still…) Students’ work is their own, it doesn’t ‘belong’ to the institution or the teacher. This means that if you’re going to make it available to subsequent classes as, say, an exemplar, then you really do need to make sure you get their written permission for this. This, of course, opens a whole new can of worms, & the wriggling is due to the power imbalance that exists in any classroom.
By which I mean that students may feel that they can’t really refuse a request such as the one I’ve mentioned. They may not actually want it to happen, but their response is always going to be tempered by the awareness that the person doing the asking is also the person doing the assessment of their performance. This shouldn’t matter – but the student may still worry about it. (This is why, when we get a paper & teaching appraisal done, the lecturers never get the original handwritten responses back until after the semester’s grades have been finalised – just in case they recognise the writing, or can in some other way identify the respondent: it protects the student.) If I was in this position, I’d be waiting to ask about using their work until after I’d finished teaching (& assessing) them. And maybe that’s what happened, but it wasn’t made clear.
The other thing that bugged me a bit was how the students were presented almost as acting as research assistants – unknowing aides, in that their projects could be mined for useful information that would inform future lectures. OK, from time to time (actually, reasonably often, & it’s one of the things I enjoy about teaching as it creates the opportunity to model how scientists think) my students will ask a question I can’t answer, or tell me about something I’ve not heard of before. In the former, I’ll find out the answer & let them know in a subsequent class (that’s how I learned about s*x determination in mosses, for example), & maybe incorporate what I’ve learned in next year’s lectures; in the latter – well, I’ll probably go & check it up. But that’s not the same as regularly ‘mining’ information to use in future classes. Especially if the students aren’t aware that someone’s doing it, but even if they do know – well, should they be acting as unpaid research assistants? It comes back to that power imbalance thing again :(
Jokey or not, that presentation wasn’t my style.