Teaching PCT with freshmen

This is Phil Runkel responding to Rick Marken’s disapointment with his freshmen in psychology.

Rick: I’m sorry about the response of your freshmen. But I am not surprised. I think the thing to remember in walking into any teaching situation is: Are they here voluntarily? Nowadays, not even registering as a student is a wholly voluntary act, since so many teenagers take college to be a sentence forced upon them by an “adult” world if they want to live above the poverty line. Then the academic requirements narrow futher the remaining degrees of freedom. The purpose most have in mind, therefore, is to get ready to guess what the teacher will call the “right” answer on the multiple-choice test. A readily perceived connection between some further purpose they bring with them and a purpose you cherish for them is bound to be rare. In a voluntary group (such as the older people you met with 10 years ago), the people (students) have the purpose of seeing whether the chunk of environment you are offering them will contain opportunities for them to pursue goals they bring with them quite other than satisfying someone else’s requirements. I gave some examples of the great difference voluntarism makes in Chapter 37 of “People As.”

The students in your statistics class, I think, are a case in the middle. Those who are majoring in psych will have adopted enough of the “requirements” as their own to want to use your course as an environment in which they might find opportunities to progress toward their own academic goals – goals of understanding, not just graduating.

There is a book I just remembered that might have a idea or two in it that might connect with an idea of your own:

Runkel, Harrison, and Runkel (eds). The Changing College Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1972.

If you cannot find a copy in a library near you, I am sure you can use interlibrary loan to pull one in. Actually, the college classroom was not changing much. Nevertheless, the examples we collected were worth offering.

Change of subject: I have begin reading Bryson’s(?) book on practically everything.

    His anecdotes are wonderful.