30 January 2009

Two terms after I started the course

I suppose it is of utmost importance that a teacher/lecturer/professor offers students constructive comments when marking their papers. Just as, when I was an undergraduate, I always hoped to receive from professors remarks on merits and shortcomings of my writings as well as instructions on how to improve them, so would my students, I believe, expect from me more practical comments on their term papers apart from the two-digit marks.

I have been reading and grading students coursework, 40 ten-page papers in total, during the Chinese New Year, which is still within the mourning period for Grandpa. Partly because of the aforementioned belief and partly because of the problem of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), I felt compelled to offer at least 200 characters (actually twice the amount most of the time, i.e. half an A4 page) for each paper in a well-written manner. Thus, I worked even on the eve, first day and second day of the new year and finished the task on the third day of the new year.

Plagiarism is always the problem. It is nowadays all too convenient to google, copy and paste, without further assessing the validity, credibility and authority of online information. While some of the students would rephrase what they found to avoid the unpardonable crime of 'copy-and-paste', others simply assume that a lecture or professor is too busy to surf through the Internet and thus so oblivious to what has been posted in the cyber world.

I wonder whose responsibility it should be to teach those undergraduates how to rephrase, to quote and to include all required information in footnotes or endnotes as well as in the bibliography. Should I, a part-time assistant professor and post-doctoral fellow, reserve ten minutes at the end of every lecture to introduce academic writing–Lesson One: Plagiarism Is A Crime?

Nevertheless, I am really delighted to see those who have made the most of my office hours complete their coursework and turn in good papers. I am particularly happy to know how much a student from the medical school, who started playing the Western classical violin since the age of 3, has learnt a lot through coursework as to how the violin, its music styles, fingering techniques and holding positions vary in different musical cultures around the globe.

(Holing positions of the violin in South Indian, top, and Morocco, bottom, demonstrated by Tiffanywan, photos reproduced from coursework)

Two terms after I started the course at National Taiwan University, I am glad to see some of my students truly come to know how to appreciate various musical cultures around the globe.

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