The LSU blog turns 1 year old this month. So far we’ve posted over 90 articles, reached over 18,000 viewers and have built our followers to over 300 in 93 countries. Thanks for reading! In honor of this, we are going back to one of our first articles published on this blog – one from […]
This is the 31st of our weekly links to the top 5 bits and pieces we’ve found from around the internet. (Linking doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with these articles!) Policies, not funds, stymie development of universities – Thanh Nien While other countries in the region have top-ranked universities, Vietnam has none. The country is […]
By Sam Graham, LSU
In the LSU, we often help students with their essays, which is much the same as coaching weightlifting.
We refine students’ writing techniques so they can express their ideas in the clearest, most convincing way possible. We don’t write the essays for them, though.
Weightlifting coaches refine lifters’ lifting techniques so they can lift the most weight possible. They don’t lift the weights for them, though.
Reading A Theoretical Approach to the Coach’s Cue, I see that we face a lot of the same challenges as weightlifting coaches.
Lost in translation
In the weight room
What a lifter hears might be quite different from what their coach says because they have different ideas, or models, of an ideal lift. The coach provides cues based on their model, formed by their education and experience as a lifter. The lifter has their own model, and cues are interpreted under this model. Where the models differ, a cue might mean something quite different. Sometimes, past training of the lifter can make their model quite different from the coach’s, and this can interfere with the coach’s cues.
In the LSU
Similarly, what a student hears might be quite different from what their advisor says because they have different models of an ideal essay. Also similar, past education can interfere with the advisor’s cues. With a less-than-ideal background in academic English or with academic experience only in a different tradition – common in Vietnam – other conceptions of academic writing can interfere with their understanding of our advice. On the other hand, If they’ve had good English teachers, this makes our job easy because we can provide short cues and they know what we’re suggesting (“Where’s the topic sentence?”).
Know your student/lifter
In the weight room
As a weightlifting coach and a lifter build a relationship, the coach develops an understanding of what the lifter understands. Meanwhile, the lifter’s lifting model aligns with the coach’s model, allowing them to more quickly and even reflexively understand each other.
In the LSU
I still see students I taught in the English programmes, where I worked before moving to the LSU. Knowing their background means I know the wider context of their writing issues. They also know what to look for in their writing if I say simply “Explanation?” and don’t need a full explanation of the importance of explicitly explaining the connection between evidence and a contention.
Speak softly and carry a big stick. Or don’t. It depends.
In the weight room
Some lifters like a calm space, others macho chest bumping. Some like loud, sharp pointers, while others prefer quiet, technical pointers.
In the LSU
The ‘treatment’ for the same issue, and how I deliver it, is rarely the same for students I know.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
In the weight room
The coach and the lifter’s perspective is quite different. The coach watches while the lifter feels the weight. A good coach will use their own experience as a lifter to make cues that make sense from the perspective of being under a weight. Telling the lifter what the outcome should look like won’t always work since the feeling of the weight is far more immediate. Getting them to make small changes can help ‘trick’ the lifter into making far bigger ones.
In the LSU
It’s also easy to forget that our view as an advisor is quite different from the student’s. Without a cloud of facts from the research, it is easy to see how arguments might be rearranged or tightened. For the student, there are far more moving parts – both in the essay and in their notes – to consider.
We can also help our students write far better essays with small tricks. For example, I’ve had success getting students to link their supporting arguments to their thesis – a quite difficult concept – by telling them to simply make sure that the keywords from their thesis statements are in each paragraph. It’s easy to do this, but difficult for them to do it without linking the ideas.
The principles here are, I think, universal. I can’t think of teaching contexts where the following won’t make for better teaching and learning:
- Know how your students see themselves
- Know how your students see their work
- Know how your students see you
- Perspective matters
- Small changes lead to big changes
- Prioritise what needs to be changed
- Speak their language
- It isn’t just what you say, it’s how you say it.
This is the 30th of our weekly links to the top 5 bits and pieces we’ve found from around the internet.
(Linking doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with these articles!)
The Slowest Distance Between Two Points – This American Life
At the age of 23, Andrew Forsthoefel fails in keeping his job and is left without a job or a plan. He decides to walk across the U.S. and learns about learning in life. This podcast is his story and features interviews of people from all walks of life giving the advice they would tell the 23-year-old version of themselves. The advice here is likely to apply to university students as well, particularly when they’re not sure where they’re headed and whether they should keep going.
Are university lectures doomed? – The Guardian
In this article, two academics (and lecturers!) debate the value of the lecture. Does learning require “students participate, interrupt, ask questions, disagree, [and] talk back” – best done somewhere other than the lecture theatre – or do lectures provide “50 minutes of pithy introduction from someone who has sorted the wheat from the chaff on the students’ behalf,” putting students “in a position to sit in class and have an informed discussion”?
A 40 year veteran teacher talks about building connections with students and keeping it all in perspective (and changing it when need be!) in this inspiring TED talk. Although it’s about school kids, these aspects of learning are the same at all levels.
A retired French astrophysicist who taught in Vietnam for more than ten years has said that autonomy is prerequisite for Vietnam universities if they are to become world-class. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese government has been running a national project to upgrade its higher education system, including building partnerships with foreign governments such as Russia, Germany, France, the US and Japan. In the case of the Russian project to establish a technology university here, curriculum, books and lecturers will come from Russia.
Some Papers Are Uploaded to Bangalore to Be Graded – The Chronicle of Higher Education
Some US universities are outsourcing grading and feedback on student papers. The graders, mainly from India, Malaysia and Singapore and all holding master’s degrees, provide a level of feedback that simply wouldn’t be possible if the universities relied only on the lecturer and teaching assistants. Some, though, say that outsourced grading and feedback necessarily ignores the context of the essays:
“An outside grader has no insight into how classroom discussion may have played into what a student wrote in their paper,” says Marilyn Valentino, chair of the board of the Conference on College Composition and Communication and a veteran professor of English at Lorain County Community College. “Are they able to say, ‘Oh, I understand where that came from’ or ‘I understand why they thought that, because Mary said that in class’?”
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By Ly Nguyen Phuc, Bachelor of Commerce student Phuc is a first-semester Bachelor of Commerce student and a RMIT University Vietnam scholarship recipient. Rather than just focusing on grades and ‘perfect’ academic results, I believe it is much better if you study because you have a strong passion for what you like and an urge to […]
This is the 29th of our weekly links to the top 5 bits and pieces we’ve found from around the internet. (Linking doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with these articles!) Asian Higher Education Revolution a Long Way Off – University World News This articles gives a description of The Times Higher Education Asian University Rankings, of […]
By Truong My Duyen, Professional Communication student at RMIT University Vietnam Truong My Duyen is in her final semester of the Professional Communication program, and served as a mentor in SLAMs for Communication for four semesters. SLAMs (Student Learning Advice Mentors) – RMIT Vietnam’s premier peer-mentoring program, is now in its eighth semester of operation […]