Martha Kinney: Says she learned more about reaching poorly prepared students when she was in the military than in grad school





[Martha Kinney is an assistant professor of history at Suffolk County Community College and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves.]

Thirteen years ago I began graduate school, and 24 years ago I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Of the two institutions — graduate school and the Army — perhaps surprisingly, my military experience has been most important in shaping my practices in the classroom. That may be because I teach survey courses at a community college rather than upper-level classes to interested majors at a research university. But, it is also because the military has honed the delivery of training over many decades, and, as I’ve discovered, military training methodology can work well outside of a military environment.

Every year, the Army recruits, at great expense, tens of thousands of young men and women. Given the costs of recruitment (and the dearth of eligible recruits), the Army cannot afford to lose many of these new soldiers. Army training is designed to take recruits who may know nothing about military life, discipline, or maneuvers, and mold them into warriors. Likewise, my task is to mold nascent scholars out of the under-performing, ill-prepared students who frequently show up in my community college classroom. I’ve found three Army practices most useful: making expectations explicit, the “crawl-walk-run” methodology, and formal evaluation of training.

Too often, we as instructors fail to adequately communicate our expectations to our students. Yes, we want a five-page analytic essay, but what does that look like? What are the components of a successful paper? And how do those components fit together? What sort of material should students use as sources? And how will students be assessed on this assignment? The army uses two tools to help its soldiers understand what’s expected of them in a specific task. First, an Army trainer shows soldiers what success looks like by performing the task correctly in front of soldiers so that soldiers “see” success. In my classroom, students see — when the assignment is given — what success looks like. In the case of a formal essay assignment, I hand out a similar assignment which has received an A and we, as a class, discuss what makes this worthy of an A. At this point, I also hand students a rubric that delineates exactly how I will grade the assignment....


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Randll Reese Besch - 7/23/2008

Most of them seem to have no problem in removing recruits no matter their rank or expertise when they find out their sexuality. A grotesque reminder of Clinton's stain upon the body politic and the repressive ideas of the so called conservatives.