Thursday, April 7, 2011

A humble request

College professors are largely autonomous in their classrooms.  They get to set the tasks, evaluate the tasks, and give the rewards.

One should always hesitate to suggest anything to a professor about how to run a gradebook.  But today I made a hesitant appeal to some of my colleagues to consider giving incentives in their classes to students who attend an event I'm helping to facilitate.

I spent about 45 minutes composing that email.  It's a delicate thing.  I didn't want to outright ask them to give points to students who come.  I don't have any right.  But I wanted to let them know how they could help with our cause, if they're inclined to help.  I also needed to make sure they understood I wasn't asking as a member of the administration, but just as the instructor who happens to be working with the students doing this project.  The power structure at the university is a very touchy thing, and people can feel coerced or pressured when no such thing was intended.

I sent the email to about fifty colleagues about seven hours ago.  So far, no negative responses.  No positive ones, either, although one chair replied that he would post our flier.  I said in the email that nobody needed to tell me what they were doing one way or the other; if they decide to participate, just make sure they let their students know.

But then, if someone decided to take it amiss, they wouldn't e-mail me.  They'd take it to my bosses -- which is why I made sure to run it by them before sending.  At least if offense is taken, I can say that it wasn't just my judgment in play.

No comments: