Raising the Bar for Students and Teachers

While teaching a class yesterday on the mechanics of writing a research paper in MLA (see previous post), I came to the conclusion that the following things are not being taught to students in High School or their early college years:

  • When looking at a citation, name the kind of item.
  • What information to include on a research paper, for example your name and the page numbers.
  • How to include quotes in a paper.
  • Why you include quotes in a paper.
  • What a parenthetical reference is, where it goes, why it is important, and what is included in it.
  • Why you still have to give credit for paraphrasing.
  • How to punctuate quotes, for example ellipses and brackets.

I could go on and on. The amount of things my students do not know about information resources (What is a journal? If I find a journal on a database, it is “on the web”?) boggles my brain. My uncle, who now insists we all call him Dr. Uncle on account of his new PhD, he said he frequently has graduate students who do not know these things. Graduate students!

Where are we failing? I know that the onus is not all on librarians to fix this. We will have to work with our faculty and in our schools to have more research added to the curriculum. We should at least try to make professors aware that their students do not posses skills we assume they have been taught. Students also must be pushed to produce a higher level of papers. They should be required to document their sources, sources that are good and reputable.

I know in my instruction sessions, I am going to assume less and ask more of my students. I will point out different things, parts of a citation in a results list, for example.

Every teacher has the capacity to reach at least one new student in every class. Who do you want to reach today?

–Jane, otherwise why would we bother teaching students at all

4 thoughts on “Raising the Bar for Students and Teachers

  • September 20, 2006 at 4:29 pm
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    Although, I agree with you I think you are only looking at this from one side.

    The days of the renaissance man are pretty much over. There is so much information and fields of study out there that our society has become much more specialized. As a result, it is more efficient for some one to recognize his strengths and/or passions and follow that path.

    When we demand results from “experts” in a certain area then it is usually easier to forgive mistakes from those same people in a field they have ignored to reach their status.

    There are many skills that I lack as a result of being in a field dependent on advanced math. Not least of which is my use of grammar. But I could say the same of other people (not to name names) who managed to make it through college with nothing more than an algebra class. Algebra!?

  • September 20, 2006 at 4:31 pm
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    When you read my last post keep in mind that I did admit my lack of grammar skills. Apparently, I don’t know how to use a comma properly. Or a colon. Or a semi-colon. The list goes on.

  • September 20, 2006 at 4:41 pm
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    I was sort of considering research concepts. Punctuation usage is a whole other kettle of fish. I think people should be taught why they have to give credit to others when quoting them and what the proper way to do that would be. I do not think that is asking too much.

  • September 21, 2006 at 9:19 am
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    You should see some of the things my students don’t know, and I don’t mean that as a negative on them. To an extent, they are a product of the education (or lack thereof) they got in high school. I don’t recall having to teach how to distinguish an article from a book citation when looking at a database for a while now. When I was in graduate school, during my previous life, teachers would ask me to teach those things. Not anymore. I think a lot may have to do with the fact article databases are taken for granted; you don’t need to know how to make those distinctions, or so the thinking goes. If nothing else, at least I feel a little less alone that I am not the only one thinking on those things. Best, and keep on blogging.

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