Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Role Play

Interspersed with our discussions in ASE 2 we've begun to do role-plays. We'll debate some aspects of an issue, and then have two students come up front and act it out. This is mostly in the context of interaction with students: how to confront cheating, how to negotiate make-up work, how to put off interaction until a more appropriate time, and the like.

I've been finding this surprisingly useful. By acting a situation out-- especially by playing the part of the student-- I'm alerted to aspects of it that I would otherwise not have noticed. Effective communication; how to speak the same "language" as the student. How to not give the student what they want but nevertheless have them leave satisfied with the interaction-- not because they got what they wanted, but because they understand my policies and rationale.

Being an effective teacher requires competence. If a student confronts me about a grade, and I've assigned that grade fairly and have reasoned it out well, then I can confidently look back over the test with the student and explain how I arrived at my decision. Or, if it turns out that I have made an error in grading-- but my grading policy itself is transparent and well-reasoned-- the error will be easy to find and easy to fix fairly and unambiguously. Either way, whether the grade ought to be changed or not, the student and I will arrive at the same conclusion: because I know what I'm doing.

If I've not thought out my grading policy well, if I've been careless or subjective in assigning grades, then there's much greater chance for the interaction to break down. I might go on the defensive, feeling like my authority as a teacher has been challenge and believing it more important not to lose face than to address the issue honestly and fairly. The best way to deal with sticky issues, in other words, is to prevent them altogether.


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