AP (Advanced Placement)

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Thu Dec 4 10:51:31 EST 1997

In article <a-schmi-0312972046330001 at vortex5.life.uiuc.edu>,
aloisia schmid <a-schmi at uiuc.edu> wrote:
>You know Karen, this is an excellent point.  At the time, i felt like I was
>doing exactly the right thing, correcting a wrong, taking steps to defend
>the under-dog.

Well, it seems to me that you were, morally, doing the right thing.  
Defending oneself, or the underdog, emotionally, doesn't seem to go over 
well in the educational system.
Only recently, in loooking back on it, have I come to
>realize that I was probably making everything far worse than it otherwise
>might have been.  At the time, though, I was simply not prepared. 

But who would have been?  It's not as if most graduate programs prepare
one for these sorts of situations.  Any "training" that I had to be a 
TA was first, extremely short in time, and second, wholly focussed on
the nitty gritty of the academic material.  While some might say the
second is as it should be, I felt quite unprepared to face a class for
the first time.  I think that some other schools have more TA training,
but among the grad students, postdocs, and professors that I know in Biology,
I can't say I've seen it be either systematic or widespread.
>The problem with doing things like disrupting and re-arranging groups is
>that I'd be afraid that would make an even bigger deal out of it than my
>re-assigning duties.

You're right, it probably would have been, midstream.  It might work
though if you just started out at the beginning of the semester 
telling the students that learning teamwork was part of the course,
and learning to work with different types of people was part of the
course, and to that end, you were going to assign the groups, and
change them throughout the semester.  

I haven't done that either; when I TA'd med students and they had to
dissect brains and spinal cords in groups of four they picked their
own groups and the gender issues weren't really a problem in that group.
On the other hand, there may have been problems that I was simply unaware
of--quiet students often just don't tell you that they're not feeling
able to speak up, because they're not feeling able to speak up.

>Anyway, it is one of those things I look back on and cringe....What is
>really sad, is that I am pretty sure I wouldn't do much better now.

But you might if you anticipated the problem at the beginning of the
semester and just never gave it a chance to develop.

>still don't know the answers.

Me either.  It's sobering.

Karen A.

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