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California State University, Dominguez Hills
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Created: July 28, 2003
Latest Update: July 28, 2003
Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, July 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.
Used to be I'd start this lecture off by complaining that we have too little discretionary time in the fast pace of metropolitan life. I've dropped that now, because none of us, urban or rural, has managed to escape the fast track. What that means to effective teaching and learning is that we're all sleep deprived, traffic challenged, and haven't known a half hour of quiet contemplation in so long we've forgotten what it is. Susan and I know that because we wrote about it a while back as the ""Fifteen-Minute Study Period."
Tradtionally, colleges assume that you put in three hours of study time for one hour of class time. The one hour comes from the days when classes met for one hour (fifty minutes) three times a week. In those days of ancient history we had Saturday morning classes, so that Saturday afternoons were free for football games. That was fifty years ago. These days, people struggle to set up a Tuesday-Thursday schedule, or at worst, a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. On non-commuter campuses, where people live in dorms, I suppose they still get to spend lots of time in the cafeterias and librariesd sprinkled over the campus. But most of us today, don't live in dorms with ready access to libraries and quiet time. Most of us get in a hot (or cold, as the weather may be) car and plunge into unearthly traffic for a fairly long trek home.
That might not be so bad, if once home, life leveled off. But you can't walk to the corner grocery store anymore. You have to hop in the car to go after food; you have to hop in the car to pick up the kids (your own or siblings), you know that good family values mean you have to spend quality time together, so you have to go to the local soccer game or school play or whatever. Susan and I, in just listening in good faith to our students' stories, learned about the "fifteen minute study period." I casually mentioned to an Assistant Dean that this newly appearing study pattern might need our attention to adapt more effectively to the real world of our students. She answered promptly: "Oh, no. They must set adequate time aside. I always studied when I could have three hours of absolute quiet and concentration." Well, gee whiz, when they're taking five courses, have kids and a house to manageor a real job, and live half an hour away from the college with all that means? I didn't answer because her utterance seemed to be a monologic non-answerable conviction not open to the creative participation of those it effectively controlled. Sometimes the better part of valor in the real world is to shut up
Funny, that even though that study requirement permeates the university assumptions, no one's ever bothered to add up how much time in the day that process covers. Maybe if we just leave the assumptions unstated, no one will notice. The students will. Especially at test time.
People have a vested interest in not recognizing their unstated assumptions. To do so might make them uncomfortably aware of the need for social change. So Susan and I have responded by changing our own expectations, and trying to make them adaptable to fifteen-minutes snatched here and there when no one else is making demands loud enough to interrupt your concentration. No, that's not ideal. But it's our aesthetic response to answers from our students to which we have been open and need to remain open. This set of measuring techniques is our aesthetic response to what we understand to be your needs. But our utterances and acts are answerable, which means that if these measures don't work for you, then we're open to hearing what will work for you. And what we are able to create together that works for you is our aesthetic response: a learning climate that's user friendly.