Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Have you noticed a lack of rigor in your classes?

Has it left you adrift?

Click here to read and/or listen to an NPR report on the phenomenon.

Thanks for the heads up, Dr. Hada.

Click here  to read more.


  1. I am intrigued by how the authors measure rigor. Students in non-rigorous programs fall behind on all of these measures: 40 pages of reading per course each week, 20 pages of writing per course each semester (which averages out to 1.25 pages per week in each course), 5 total hours of study for an entire week (that doesn't compute, unless you can read 40 pages and write 1.25 pages in an hour).

    I feel somewhat conflicted about these numbers because I tend to believe that quality matters over quantity. I'd rather read something well than be "well-read." I've moved my eyes over too many pages and counted too many words in my life to attribute much value to it.

    That said, I think more rigor is a good thing. The question is: how to get there? Thinking big picture, I'd like to see every course graded as complete or incomplete, so that we could do away with the sloppy C (or B). A student doesn't finish a course until he or she meets all the requirements of that course; if it takes the student four years to do that, then so be it. As Yoda says, "do or not do; there is no try."

    I'd also like to see courses that span multiple semesters. If we want to see progress over the course of several years, we need to have courses that span several years. The assembly line approach that we have now is inadequate.

  2. I agree, the sheer number of papers doesn't equal quality--that may often seem to be the case, but you could have student write very perfunctory papers which would give the students more work but yield little to no intellectual result. In my clases, the students turn in writing almost every day, but much of it is short, focused, but informal responses; I assign relatively few longer papers, because I want them to write towards a larger paper, live with the ideas, and then approach it (and of course, be able to revise each paper, if they wish, rather than jumping off to the next one).

    Rigor is the issue; we have to get away from the idea, in English, that "anything I slap down is good enough since it's my idea." Often, I feel that students don't really engage with the texts in a meaningful way, and hide behind the idea that a response is "personal." Meaning, if I hate the work that's all I write about, instead of exploring why the text provoked such a response, if the author intended such a response, and if the student is the "ideal reader" or not for this text/author. There seems to be a resistance to English or reading as a disicipline which should be studied, practiced, and improved upon. Perhaps the grading system could change our perspective on this. I also LOVE the idea of multiple course classes...I would like to see a British survey class that focused on poetry one semester, then prose, then drama. The idea that all you need to learn can be packaged in 16 weeks is absurd. Better still, we should have the same class/topic that changes emphasis slightly each semester with a new professor (or team of professors). Critical Approaches would be ideal for this.

    But in the end, you can assign 8 papers a semester, and still have students leave without having learned anything substantial. Writing needs context and preparation; writing alone is good practice, but without tangible, rigorous goals (which I think writing less papers can support) it's just so much note spinning.