Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crossing the Threshhold of Too Much Helping

One thing I have noticed about some grad students is that simple tasks seem to be beyond them. Of course this is by no means true across the board, but I assume that students who are at the point of their dissertation should be able to do some basic statistics and use a statistical package.

I don't think it is unreasonable to ask students to manipulate a basic spreadsheet or make a codebook from their survey. But there seems to be a level of knowledge that is being overlooked, either in the admissions process (are we admitting students who can do the work?) or the education process once students are admitted.

So here is my conundrum: If we are failing these students either by admitting them or educating them, should we just throw them to the wolves when it comes to their dissertation? How much help is too much help?

Part of me says, "I figured it out and they should do the same thing." Of course that is the exact attitude of "academic hazing" that I have railed against for the past 5 years.

So the other part of me says, "I don't want them to fail, so I will help in any way that I can." And of course then I wonder if I am doing them a disservice by not insisting that they learn it on their own.

It's a puzzle for sure -- and I'm not sure where I will come out at the end.

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