Chinese Politeness & Education


A really interesting piece about the culture in Chinese universities:

Respect, in this instance, simply means having regard for those who know more than them. In the West, putting intellectual pressure on students can be dubbed “bullying”; here in China, they expect you to expect the best of them. In fact, most of my students are highly competitive, keen to demonstrate their aptitude for learning as well as their attitude to learning. It is a thirst for finding things out that is reflective of and responsive to the social dynamism in which they find themselves.

In the end, it is the willingness of my students to get on, to understand the world (not just their part of it) and to be critical and creative that is rewarding. As a result, there is also a refreshing pressure on me to perform. Besides, when all students are armed with mobile phone cameras – like a phalanx of Chinese tourists snapping away at my blackboard calculations – there is no way that I can blame them for copying things down incorrectly.

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Ever met your ‘student nemesis’?


A challenging piece … more than those “difficult” students that we all have … what about the ‘student nemesis’?

I know. You think that there’s no such thing as a worst student – only more or less challenging ones. You think that only professors who don’t care about their students have worsts and bests. You’d be wrong, but the mistake is an honest one. In truth, academics who don’t care about their students or about teaching are generally the ones that never encounter a “worst” student. To their way of thinking, every student is a bothersome distraction and the best that one can do is ignore these distractions and stay on task. These academics don’t lose sleep over their students. And trust me, if you face your worst, you will lose quite a bit.

So what do I mean by “worst”? Well, let’s begin with what I don’t mean. I’m not referring to the motivationally challenged ones that congregate in the back of class, or the overly anxious ones in the front. I am also not talking about the ones who have genuine difficulty grasping a subject. None of these are viable candidates. Your worst student, in my experience, is one that runs counter to your deepest care as a teacher. That’s the real reason why bad teachers don’t have worst students. Care. Yes, that virtue of all pedagogical virtues is the thing that makes the mere existence of a certain type of student so excruciatingly painful.

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Means to combat plagiarism? Technology? Learning? What is likely to be more successful:

David Matthews reports on debate about whether claiming students’ IP rights could halt plagiarism

A senior figure at Oxford Brookes University has suggested taking control of undergraduates’ intellectual property rights to stop them selling their essays on the internet.

John Francis, director of research and business development, said that the market in essays was “quite difficult to control” and that the university currently had no “formal rights” to stop it.

The idea has sparked a debate on how to stop the sale of essays and has also drawn claims that any blanket ownership of students’ intellectual property (IP) could be illegal.

Writing on JISCmail, an academic email discussion forum, Mr Francis said that an increasing number of students were selling their essays and that this could potentially damage the university’s reputation.

“We have been considering ways to strengthen our position on the practice to prevent it,” he wrote. “One way could be to claim ownership of all undergraduate and postgraduate IP. We only claim IP from PG [postgraduate] research students at the moment.”

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National Student Survey: Aim for Satisfaction?

There’s a lot of debate that I overhear about the value of the National Student Survey, feedback forms, etc. Which parts of those should we use to decide how we work with students, and in which areas do lecturers know better… Stefan Collini definitely thinks tutor knows best:

On the face of it, “student satisfaction” sounds like a good idea: who would want universities full of morose, miserable students?

But Stefan Collini, professor of English literature and intellectual history at the University of Cambridge, will have none of it.

“It may be that the most appropriate way to decide whether the atmosphere in the student bar is right is by whether students say, when asked in a questionnaire, that they ‘like’ it or not,” he writes in What Are Universities For?, published this week. “But this is obviously not the best way to decide whether a philosophy degree should have a compulsory course in Kant.”

On the contrary, he hopes that the students he teaches will come away with certain kinds of dissatisfaction – including with themselves, for “a ‘satisfied’ student is well-nigh ineducable”.

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What do students want from University?

Encouraging to see that students aren’t picking just on cost, but are looking for a wider idea of what offers “value”:

Almost a quarter of all students have changed their thinking on where to attend university owing to higher tuition fees, according to a new study of applicants.

That proportion rose to more than a third of those from poorer backgrounds with lower predicted grades, a survey of prospective students by university marketing advisers OpinionPanel found.

However, fee levels themselves are still unlikely to be the deciding factor when students choose an institution, with a bigger shift towards the perceived “return on investment” to be gained by studying on a particular course.

The survey attempts to look at how the tripling of tuition fees has affected the decisions of those still planning to go into higher education.

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