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HomeHigher EducationEncouraging College students to Use the Dictionary: The Outcomes

Encouraging College students to Use the Dictionary: The Outcomes


This text first appeared within the Instructing Professor on March 2, 2018. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.

Beforehand in The Instructing Professor (31.7), I wrote about my efforts to assist college students get what John C. Bean in Partaking Concepts (2001) calls the “Dictionary Behavior.” As I wrote, I had all the time assumed that my strategy to educating the “Dictionary Behavior” was efficient. Nonetheless, a scholar e-mail inquiring in regards to the which means of the phrase “dwellings” alerted me to the chance that my strategy was maybe too teacher-centered. In different phrases, I started to wonder if I had impressed this scholar to show to me for a definition quite than a first-class dictionary just like the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Briefly, as much as that time, I had been the one selecting what phrases we’d lookup as we learn via texts, not less than on most events. After the coed’s e-mail, I made a decision to strive one thing new, one thing extra natural. As a self-described “dictionary fanatic,” what occurred fascinated me.

I created a “Dictionary Train” for the 2 sections of every of the 2 programs I train (4 sections in all). For the one course, college students needed to lookup two phrases throughout their studying of the guide River Out of Eden by Richard Dawkins. The scholars might select phrases they didn’t know or phrases whose explicit utilization was unfamiliar to them. After selecting their phrases, they needed to write down the sentences from Dawkins through which every phrase seems, they usually needed to cite the right definition for every phrase as offered within the OED. For the opposite course, college students did precisely the identical factor, however they’d to decide on their phrases from tales and poems by Edgar Allan Poe.

I culled the outcomes of 23 college students’ workouts from one part the place college students labored from the Dawkins textual content. The scholars had appeared up two phrases every for a complete of 46 phrases. Amazingly, there have been 42 completely different phrases in all! The phrases included “equilibria,” “gunwales,” “morsel,” “parsimonious,” and “spawn.” Solely 4 phrases had been repeated on completely different college students’ assignments, and every of these solely as soon as: “erroneously,” “insuperable,” “pernicious,” and “progenitorial.” I had not anticipated the out-and-out number of phrases, which taught me a lesson in regards to the variety of scholars’ studying experiences.

In a single part of the course the place college students labored from the Poe texts, there was additionally substantial variation, although not fairly as a lot. Nonetheless, these outcomes supplied me their very own particular lesson. On this pattern, 26 college students appeared up two phrases every for a complete of 52 responses. Amongst these 52 responses had been 33 completely different phrases, together with “hogshead,” “intemperance,” “pallid,” “illusion,” and “surcease.” Furthermore, 9 phrases had been repeated, 4 of them greater than as soon as: “obeisance,” “sagacity,” “sepulchre,” and “seraph.” The phrase “sepulchre” was repeated seven occasions, probably the most by far. Curiously, the phrase “sepulchre” has turn out to be a part of my private lexicon—in all probability from my years of studying Poe. Because of this, and misguidedly, it’s more than likely not a phrase I’d have chosen to lookup with my courses! Doubtlessly, academics make assumptions in regards to the materials they train and the way college students will obtain it, as I’ve achieved in regard to the phrase “sepulchre.” It’s troublesome to see how this is able to not be the case. Nonetheless, my expertise on this occasion jogged my memory that I ought to be frequently difficult my very own assumptions.

Certainly, though it appears as if it ought to be apparent, particularly in hindsight, one semester of those workouts has made me extra totally conscious of the truth that particular person college students’ vital studying experiences current discrete challenges. I can not assume that college students’ encounters with texts will normally mirror these of different college students or my very own. As I famous within the earlier article in regard to Mary Wollstonecraft’s use of the verb “sophisticate” in A Vindication of the Rights of Girl, there are occasions when the category as an entire can focus successfully and meaningfully on a single word-related studying lesson. I don’t plan to dispense with such moments. Nonetheless, I’ve acknowledged {that a} extra natural strategy to encouraging college students to make use of the dictionary provides a vital dimension that doubtless advantages college students in ways in which teacher-centered moments merely can not.



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