Friday, December 16, 2011

Mancur Olson Lives!

Maybe it's because it's raining hard, and I have to give an exam.

On a Friday night. 7 - 10 pm.

To 80 students. It's an essay exam. It's 1/2 mile away, and I have to carry all the stuff over there, and carry it back, in the rain. Then two days of grading.

Maybe that's why I'm a little incredulous at this story.

Professor requires students to bring snacks to class, or he refuses to teach.

But then I saw this little gem:

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Parrott defended his teaching methods. He said he could understand why some students would be frustrated about the missed class time, but that people should view his requirement as a valid pedagogical choice.

A graduate of Cal State's Chico campus, Parrott said that when he was an undergraduate, courses had 12 to 20 students, and those in a class formed close ties among themselves and with the professor. "Those days are long gone," Parrott said. The course in question is supposed to have a maximum of 42 students, although this year he has 52 in the section that skipped snack last week. That makes it hard for students to connect. So does the nature of Sacramento State's student body. "It's a commuter rat race. Students drive in and go home and never connect with their fellow students," he said.

Enter the snack requirement: Parrott said that he's teaching students to work together to set a schedule, to work in teams to get something done, and to check up on one another, since everyone depends on whoever has the duty of bringing snacks on a given week. Typically, no individual should be involved in preparing the snack more than twice a semester, he said.

As the class gets larger, seems like it would be easier to take turns on the snacks, yes? But of course, as Olson showed, it actually gets HARDER to solve the collective action problem, even though the group has more resources than it did before.

Now, out into the rain....

1 comment:

dangph said...

An update: "He's been told by the dean not to repeat the behavior"