Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Now that I’m a Junior, I’ve reached the point in my studies where I pretty much only take classes in my field of study. I’m a Foreign Languages major (German and Russian), with a minor in Economics (yay economics!). Personally, I get decent grades because I need to get decent grades. Even in ridiculous classes like Art Appreciation and a very strange “Freshman Year Initiative” class that was required at a college I attended before settling here (I still don’t know what the point of that class was.). Now, some of my fellow classmates just plain don’t care about their grades in any subject, but others, who previously did the bare minimum are now reaching classes they actually get to choose and are turning into A students.

I understand the need for core classes. Many universities today want to assist us in becoming well-rounded individuals. Core classes tend to be boring. They can generally be spotted while passing classroom doors. These are the classes where many only show up on test days, half of those in attendance are slumped, texting, or sleeping. There is no incentive for some students to participate or do well because they have to do it. And in turn, some teachers know that they have to spout this information and they either don’t care if the student’s take it in, or know that most won’t, so the teachers themselves do the bare minimum.

In upper level classes, in probably any field of study, there is a different tone. Students show up to class, they have done their homework, they discuss the subject with their professors, and they are most likely getting good grades - because they got to choose these classes. It interests them. They have an incentive to engage in their classes because they have an investment in it (apart from the monetary investment that pervades the entire college experience). I admit that I behave differently depending on what kind of class I’m in. In my biology lab, I sit in the back and try to avoid eye contact with the professor. I find the class interesting, but I feel no need to participate. In my language classes, I sit in the front, with my book open, ready to participate. It interests me. I’ve decided that it has a bearing on my future, so I am involved.

Basically, behavior in classes is driven by incentives. So novel. Who knew?

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