Studying language is hard — getting at the nature of tacit knowledge often is, as I see teaching other areas of cognitive psychology. But this summer I wove together Pinker’s The Language Instinct and Carroll’s Psychology of Language text in a way I hoped would be informative and fun, and easier because of the inclusion of Pinker.
Essentially, Pinker was to introduce a topic and some of the terminology, but little of the basics behind the experimentation. Carroll then would come along and flesh out the details.
What a bonehead move!
I couldn’t have been more wrong in terms of how this organizational structure, or this material or both, was going to go over. The students complain that they “just don’t get it” and didn’t think this “would be a course on grammar.” Clearly this was a disaster in the making!
So, I gave a quiz. Shaved a few points off the first exam, tried to quell fears, let them know what I would be asking, motivate them to study harder (or somehow better) if that was what was needed.
Performance was dismal. The instrument was doable; 3/34 students had fine grades, and 9 passed. But this was more like an Organic Chem exam than a Psychology of Language quiz, with the overall quiz mean = 48%!
I’m working up lots of help this weekend, in the form of notes on how to prepare for Critical Issues discussions I have peppered three times throughout the term… ahh, more to come on how we all progress this term…