Tag Archives: orientation

DO WE INFANTILIZE OUR STUDENTS? GIVING OUR RESEARCH ASSISTANTS MORE AND GETTING MORE FROM THEM

I was a professional journalist when I was 22 years old. Some of us probably have great-grandparents who were married, had children and were managing a farm before they were 20 years old.
Today, students bound for academic careers are very likely not to do any original research as undergraduates and then, in graduate school, may spend years gathering data for their supervisors’ research before they undertake their own project. Some time ago, it occurred to me to ask myself whether my students might not benefit from taking on a bigger challenge.
Since then, I’ve evolved methods that, as far as I know, are unconventional, but that I find help my students, both graduate and undergraduate to maximize the contribution they make to our research, while serving as an excellent teaching tool, and boosting their career prospects.
My method involves subdividing my research into free-standing sub-projects, assigning each student one or more sub-projects, and instructing them to do the whole project, from literature review, through document collection and interviews, to the production of a final draft. I tell them that I expect them to produce a draft that is as close to a publishable article as they can make it. In a number of cases, this procedure has enabled me to send one of my senior undergraduates to graduate school with a cv that already includes a co-authored academic publication.

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