Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cattle-call classes

The Daily Wildcat Summer Edition recently released an opinion (that actually doesn't offer much opinion for or against the proposal) stating that large classes have the potential to give students more access to the really 'good' instructors and allow students into popular classes that usually fill up quick.


Now that Centennial Hall has been designated a classroom (holding up to 1,200 students) and U of A is going the way of so many other schools, Sallygradstudent would like to offer a little insight: Large classes suck.

That's right, Sallygradstudent used to go to another school, where she took Psychology 101 in a classroom/theater with 1,000 students...and math, natural science, two culture classes and a social science course. She also had philosophy and one literature class with 250 students, and it sucked. Why do larger classes suck?

1) Almost zero access to your instructor/professor. No matter how out-going you are (Sally gradstudent is pretty out-going), your instructor does not have time for you. If you do gain access, you will be promptly forgotten.

2) You can't ask a question when it's pertinent like you can in a small classroom, so you write it down, bring it to your GAT and try to explain when and how you had the question so s/he can answer it two days later, totally out of context.

3) It makes the classroom into a zoo. There is very little control of classroom behavior, so the idiot talking on his cell phone or the couple making out right next to you goes totally unchecked. It's like paying to watch a movie and having everyone talk through the whole thing, and then there's the catch: you're going to be tested on the movie afterwards.

4) It's even more like watching a movie than anything else. In Sally's experience, there were lots of fancy cameras and screens and powerpoints and videos. While the technology sometimes improved understanding, it often hampered it. Instead of just teaching, the professors often spent up to ten minutes loading their presentations, dealing with technical problems and fixing their microphones. If the technology failed, there was no solution: class dismissed.

5) If you, as a student, have a major problem, such as a mistake in your grade, a family emergency, a special need for adaptation, you are less likely to get the help you really need.

6) In terms of learning, you can't be expected to put out as much work as in other classes and you can't be graded as thoroughly and with as much feedback. If you're just in it for the piece of paper (diploma) at the end, you might not mind. On the other hand, you might want to learn or develop a skill or genuinely be interested in the class material. Your GATs and professors simply can't grade everything they would like to, so they design things that are easy to grade, not things that help you learn. Multiple choice, fill in the blank and true false questions are the worst ways to test knowledge, but the easiest to grade. If you're not a a good test-taker (brilliant as you may be) you're pretty screwed with the new system.

Keep these problems in mind when you sign up for a cattle-call class, and if you don't want to be in that kind of class, call the provost's office and let her know how you and your parents feel about the new U of A.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Throw another fiasco on the pile: in an effort to keep Gov. Brewer from vetoing a budget proposed by Republican lawmakers, the budget writers have been holding on to it, hoping to turn it in at the last minute in order to make Brewer look like the one at fault for not having a budget passed.

Check out this commentary in the Tucson Citizen Blog on how lawmakers are "playing chicken" while state services crumble before them:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Famous for failure?

When I was a little kid and I did something stupid in order to get people to like me, my mom would say, "There are two kinds of attention: positive attention, and negative attention."

U of A administration, you should take a page out of my mom's book.

The AZ Star announced today that the U of A will now be holding some of the largest classes in the nation (up to 1,200 students at a time) in a year with record high tuition for this institution. Well, who is surprised, considering that we're among the very bottom of the pile for university spending and absolute last (that's 51 in the nation, including Washington D.C.) in K-12. Instead of investing in education, UA will dump $300,000 into retrofiting their theater with projectors and wi-fi.

Ever wonder why your students can't complete a simple sentence in writing? Do you ask yourself why so many undergraduates enter the university without the basic math and science skills they need? Now they're even more likely to leave the university, still without the basic skills they need.


U of A is on the road to becoming famous for failure when it comes to undergraduate education.