Monday, January 17, 2011

Enrollment-lowering strategies....

Urgh... I just checked into the enrollment for my course this semester. I definitely need to shave it down by at least 10. I fear that my usual first-day strategies for encouraging people to drop are now well-worn, run-of-the-mill, and hence far less effective.

A colleague tells me that banning laptops from class is by itself a good way to get a handful to seek another course. I'll do that. But I'm seeking some new ideas for enrollment-reduction. Any suggestions?

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

In-class exams

Anonymous said...

Cold calling

Anonymous said...

This is a true story.

One semester I explained on the first day that I would require everyone in the class to talk regularly during lecture. (I run a discussion-style lecture.) There were about 60 students signed up for the course. I explained that at the beginning of the semester, each student would receive fourteen cards in assorted colors and they were to hand these in to the TA's when they talked in class (after writing their names on the cards) so that we could keep track and make sure everyone would talk often. (Roughly, there were two red cards, red correlated to the first two weeks, etc.) This information was also on the syllabus.

You see, I'd never taught that many students before, and I really wanted to be sure that everyone talked regularly.

On the second day of class, there were only 30 students, so I could keep track myself of whether everyone was talking regularly, and I abandoned the card system.

At the end of the semester, many of my students posted as "advice for other students": "The prof isn't as scary as it seems the first day" "Don't be put off by the first day" etc.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Recipe for Doc Killjoy's Full-Proof Enrollment-Reducing Elixer

On the first day of class, inform students that

1. The average grade for your courses typically falls squarely in the C range.

2. Late work will receive an F--no extensions, no exceptions.

3. Repeat 1 & 2 loudly and slam fist onto desk.

This home remedy usually nets at least a 20-30% reduction but requires that you back it up--Doc Killjoy don't cotton to no coddlin' softy baby-sitter types.





3.

Anonymous said...

Don't shower or brush your teeth until numbers drop to where you want them. Tell the class you have a bet with a friend at another school about who can fail the highest percentage of students. Throw away the syllabus and ramble your way through class about some incomprehensible topic.
You get the idea.

Anonymous said...

Simple. Just firmly announce a load of arbitrary rules for the class and then proceed to violate them yourself. E.g., tell students *absolutely no eating* in class, and then open up a bag of chips. Tell them they *must turn off cell phones*, and then take a call in class. If anyone balks, remind them that *you're* the professor and so make the rules. That's good for at least 10 percent to drop.

729 said...

Presentations. With assigned topics. Based on readings the students do not select themselves. Think, students will be responsible for leading discussions on (array of topics), must read paper/s X (Y,Z...).

A 20-25 page research paper (especially in addition to the above suggestion), has been proven to thin the herd. Sometimes, too much. (15 pages seems ineffective.)

Field stuff. I know this sounds crazy-hard to accomplish in philosophy courses. But it can be done. Think, requiring an observation and full report of the event. One part descriptive, one part evaluative, using material from the course.

Be prepared for disappointment. The back-handed compliment is that one's rep may come to outweigh academic demands. And I don't mean a soft rep. In my department, some of the hardest ass profs. couldn't beat them away with sticks.

I, for one, never worry about this. I've gotten used to a "natural" sort of attrition. No matter what I require or how accommodating I have been, hard or soft, whatever, a generous handful of students simply stop showing up for whatever reasons they have for not showing up and doing any of the work. I've gotten kind of zen about it.

Anonymous said...

1. Get a table with 10 chairs in the lecture room.
2. Put the table front centre.
3. Add more chairs to back and sides.
4. Let students choose their seats when they come in.
5. When the lecture starts explain that only those who find room at the table will be able to take the course.

This way those who are serious about it are already there and there is not much room for others.

I know a professor who uses this on a regular basis.

English Jerk said...

You could always try Thorstein Veblen's strategy: Tell them on the first day that everyone in the class will get a C at the end of the semester, no matter what they do or don't do. The ones who don't want to do any work and don't mind a C will just disappear, so you can ignore their existence until the end of the semester, when you enter a C for them. The ones who only care about their grades (or put grades above wisdom) will flee as fast as their little legs will carry them. And what remains will be the desired "fit audience, though few."

But since your administration might not like that idea terribly much, you could also try a strategy I've used with some success: Have them write a short paper, due a bit before the end of the drop period. Grade the papers as severely as you can (not unfairly, but applying very high standards of rationality, clarity, etc.). Then return them on the last day before the drop period ends. This usually disposes of at least a few coasters.

Anonymous said...

Oral exams.

Anonymous said...

Just be yourself.

Anonymous said...

Tell them that you don't care about anything practical--you don't care about education that produces jobs--just an appreciation of the humanities, and that, all tolled, education is most valuable because it allows one to "get" better jokes. You'll retain the students who matter and lose those who want to fellatio rolls of cash.

wv: milkab as in you're milking abductive reasoning

Anonymous said...

Math. Make them do it early. Bayes' Theorem. Surely there's an application of it somewhere.

Anonymous said...

An instructor I TA'd for a while ago at top-ranked school had about 20 students drop after his garbled introduction to philosophy delivered complete with body twitches and ticks. I found out after it was an act to deter the roomful of students (some even sitting on the floor). Ah I'll never forget wrestling with his interpretation of Locke's primary/secondary quality distinction.

Anonymous said...

A really lengthy syllabus with lots of reading

Anonymous said...

Read Hegel aloud for 30 minutes and look at them like they're supposed to understand.

Anonymous said...

@17, 2011 10:11 PM

METH. Make them do it early. THEN, Bayes' Theorem.

Anonymous said...

So you're teaching in a program that isn't hurting for philosophy students? You want lower enrollments, teach almost anywhere else.

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PA said...

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Anonymous said...

Wait, banning laptops gets them to drop? I tried that. Nobody dropped. By the end of the second week they were bringing laptops. I tried reminding them that they are banned, but they just acted confused: "How can I take notes without a laptop? Look, look, I'm really taking notes! Let me just close these websites while you walk around to look..."

Glaucon said...

Whatever you do, do not adopt the tone or pedagogy of Philosophy Bro.

729 said...

Glaucon,

I didn't know about the Philosophy Bro. I don't know whether to thank or curse you. I think I need a hug. Tequila is also an option.

Anonymous said...

Any student seen texting fails.

English Jerk said...

Apparently, Philosophy Bro takes requests. So I'd say it's time to put our heads together. How about we ask for a summary of, say, Husserl's Ideen? Or maybe we could ask him to summarize how Spinoza reconciles his determinism with urging us to strive to increase our powers? Or maybe he can explain the mechanism that allows the realms of Nature and Freedom to be causally related in the second Critique? I'm sure you Philosophy Pros will have better ideas than me.

Glaucon said...

English Jerk:

I think that might make his head explode (or, in the vernacular, exbrode).

This gem from the Onion is perhaps the sacred text of brosophy.

philosorapters said...

English Jerk: Thats great! Give him the Wittgensteins Tractatus in reversed numbering....

On enrollment: Doesn't over enrollment mean that the university is losing out on money? specifically, doesn't that mean that YOUR philosophy department is losing out on money. I know that at UCSC there could have been at least one extra class per quarter for logic, critical thinking and ancient. By creating opportunities for undeclared undergrads to declare philosophy, doesn't that create a better picture of your philosophy department generally. If the Dean sees that the department is flourishing, and declaring more students, doesn't that mean you get more funding? As a new graduate student Im still stumbling around the bureaucracy of philosophy so I'm curious; am I wrong?

http://philosorapters.blogspot.com/