Professor Dump

No, I’m not talking about what happens in the morning prior to a flushing of the toilet.

Professor dump happens near the end of the semester when a professor assigns a major paper or project.  It’s all in the timing. A major assignment might strike with the force of a whining mosquito if made at the beginning of a semester.  However, if the assignment is made with time running out, students can feel as if they are down in the toilet bowl looking up.

How you feel about professor dump depends on whether you are the dumpee or dumper.

I have mixed thoughts about professor dump.  I feel obliged to enrich and legitimize my courses by adding papers and projects.  There are two reasons for feeing obliged.  First, I know that students learn more deeply by doing papers and projects instead of taking tests.  Second, I don’t want other professors to view me as a wimpy wuss.  And they might if my classes are too basic, only containing tests.

On the other hand, I wonder if I’m only checking off a box.  By the end of a semester, students are tired from the long haul.  How much can they learn from a project or paper if they are physically, mentally and emotionally stressed?  Students compound their misery by burning the candle at both ends in an attempt to add time to the working day.  In turn, they become more tired and less able to learn.

The one thing professors need to remember is that every paper or project assigned to students will come back and require copious amounts of grading (aka grading jail).  This grading comes at a time when the professor is exhausted, and will take longer as a result (aka grading disaster).

– – David Albrecht


Filed under Higher ed issues

5 responses to “Professor Dump

  1. Professor Dump should never happen, IMO (biased student opinion). That’s why courses have *syllabi*. Students should be able to anticipate when a major assignment is looming (hmm…it’s two weeks before the end of school; our syllabus says we have 3 tests, 2 group assignments, and 3 individual assignments, but we’ve only taken one of each…Maybe I should just kill my outside life now?)

    • Andrew, thanks for commenting.

      I agree that professor dump should not happen.

      Unfortunately, it happens.

      I was writing the post a week ago in a coffee shop. A middle aged woman turned and told me, “I still have nightmares about missing a final exam.” Those residual memories cause nightmares decades later. Why? The stress induced through professor dump.

      • Then, my question is: what are syllabi for?

      • Interesting question. Not everyone agrees. For some, it is a day to day schedule, nothing else. These folks are programmed. Courses run on auto-pilot.

        For others, it is designed to share a bit of the professor’s world view, and how the course is derived. For others, it is about course policies (grades, attendance, etc.).

        This semester, I was not able to keep with any sort of schedule. I was teaching a new class outside of my area and I got overwhelmed. My other course suffered as a result, and I’ve been teaching that one for many years.

        The students in my regular class feared professor dump. I didn’t do it.

  2. Tom

    I think it depends a bit on the complexity of the course.

    With a week left before the final, my governmental accounting instructor dropped a small presentation & written assignment on us. I think we’re all doing poorly enough in the class (due to the complexity of the material) that there is no need to manipulate the curve at this point.

    Considering the need to also focus on five other courses this semester, this project (as exiting as it sounded) was relegated to the back burner.

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