Why do I bother?
I admit it. I am a compulsive overexplainer. My tendency towards TMI extends to my writing of syllabi and assignments. They are, in a word, wordy.
But here's the thing ...
the syllabus? It explains my expectations. It has a list of outcomes and how students will be assessed. It has (shock horror) a list of assigned readings and the dates on which they, as well as all the other assignments are due. It's kind of neat -- you can take the dates in the syllabus and transfer them to your own PDA or (if you are low-tech, like me) to your calendar!
So why is it that Amazingly Bright But Equally Clueless Student asked me today when assignment Y was due? I said, ABBEC, "it's in the syllabus." ABBEC said, "Oh, but I don't have that with me, so I thought I could just ask you." I said, "well, since we don't meet again this week, it's not this week -- which gives you time to look at your syllabus!"
My paper assignment? Includes a detailed description of the assignment and the questions the essay needs to answer. It's a review. The assignment sheet has outcomes listed in terms of what skills they will have mastered by doing the assignment. Stated clearly is my understanding that most students have never read a scholarly review, and instructions to go to the library (or JSTOR) and find a scholarly review from a particular journal, and to read that review first, so that they will have an idea of what their paper should look like when they are done. So why is it that a student asked me today if the assignment was to watch a film and summarize it????? "Have you read the assignment sheet all the way through?" "no" "Have you found an example of the kind of review you're writing and looked at it?" "no"
I did not ask why we were having this conversation, but I did wonder it. When I were a lad, professor told us to write paper. Not how, no specific instructions as to what was entailed in writing a good paper in a particular field. It could be a recipe for disaster. But why bother to articulate our expectations if students seem totally unaware that the instruction sheet is actually an instruction sheet?
I'll stop ranting and go do something useful now ...
But by the way ... I also tell them, orally and in writing, that most of their questions on how to do things can be answered by reading the assignment sheets and syllabus carefully.