Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Occasional Adventures in Pedagogy

Today I did a sinful thing: I decided at the last moment to administer a pop quiz on the day's reading--Paul Auster's City of Glass--to my class. I could be wrong, but I don't think one can find detailed plot summaries online--certainly not with a cursory glance--so I thought it might be interesting to figure out how many of the lads and lasses actually read it. The answer is somewhat inconclusive: the majority of those who actually turned their quizzes in did okay, but a substantial number didn't even bother to turn anything in. What did amuse me, however, was this: one of the questions--and anyone who's read the book will be able to answer this immediately, as it's one of the most striking episodes--was: What phrase does Peter Stillman spell out via his peregrinations through Manhattan (I didn't actually use the word "peregrinations"--that would've been a non-starter)? Then, I got back two quizzes, from a pair of students sitting next to each other. It's obvious that they were attempting to cheat from one another, because they both responded: "Labyrinth." A word that they presumably chose because earlier we were reading Borges stories about labyrinths, which word turned out to be strange and exotic to a substantial portion of the class. It has no relation to the correct answer ("The Tower of Babel"), and yet they both used it. Did they think a unified front would make their wrongness appear more convincing somehow? Student psychology is a strange and sometimes troubling thing.


Post a Comment

<< Home