This sucks

I hate this phrase.  I teach chemistry so this gets thrown around a lot.  While I would love to make my class as real-world as possible, there are just some topics where it is not possible.  The connections are there, but things like balancing reactions and conversions are just mechanistic topics that have to be pounded through and practiced.  So, naturally, students love to say “this sucks” when they are not interested in what we are doing.  One student this year said this, on average, at least once per day.

But here’s the thing, when a student says “this sucks” I hear “you suck.”  They don’t truly hate me, but if I am the one designing the activity that is causing them to feel this way, the negative comments are really an attack on my thinking and teaching.

I wish I had an easy way around this.  Besides designing more creative lessons, which I am always trying to do, what strategies do you have for getting students to say more constructive comments for your lessons?

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One thought on “This sucks

  1. nothingblowsupinbiology

    I agree it's hard not to take that kind of comment personally. Can you turn it around on the student to make them articulate what part of it they don't like? (I'm sure they'll LOVE that!) But ask, “What part of it don't you like/understand/think is useful?” or “Why don't you like it?”

    When I was at the AP annual conference last month, I learned about Claim-Evidence-Reasoning, a methodology to improve students' ability to make/write conclusions in labs. If you ask students to apply this method to their claim of “it sucks”, both you and they might understand the parts of an activity or lab that aren't inspiring. Or (miracle of miracles) the student might change his/her mind about the activity if they actually see the intended outcome or practical application of the lab.

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