In a previous post, I briefly mentioned the juxtaposition of my Philadelphia life and my Norwich life. My Philadelphia life was go-go-go nonstop — either in class, at the gym, or at my job. However, my Norwich life is a lot more relaxed, filled with free time. Less class hours, no gym membership, no job. I’ve said previously that I use this free time as a chance to try sports or societies or to travel on weekends. With that being said, although I am abroad, I need to know when to tell myself no.
Mom and Dad, before you start to freak out, I’m okay! I’m doing really well, actually, I haven’t missed a homework assignment yet. But I must say, it has definitely come to my attention how easy it is to let your hair down and let go (again, I will reiterate — I have not done that yet, Mom). It’s just that the structure of classes themselves differ greatly from classes at Temple/classes in America as a whole. I’d like to get into the specifics.
Aside from the vast difference between the hours spent in class, the actual “assignments” are framed and pursued differently as well. With my previous classes at Temple, it was very popular for a class to have a “post” due for every meeting (either MWF or TR), which adds up to 2-3 posts a week. Usually, there are about four “major” assignments — whether they are tests, quizzes, or essays. Bottom line, the forced reoccurring grades on all of the assignments due in America is a way to force students to keep up. Either do the daily blog post and monthly assignment, or you’re going to fail.
When it comes to the English school system, at least here at UEA, there are roughly only two “assignments” due. One of them isn’t even graded. For each course, you have a formative and a summative. The formative is due a few weeks into the semester and it is not graded. It basically is just a way for the professor to see where stand so far in a course and to give you feedback to help you perform well on your summative. The summative is due at the end of the semester — it acts as a final, and is graded.
Although there is homework assigned for every class, there are no discussion posts, no quizzes, and no grades (makes sense, as these classes are built from a liberal arts viewpoint. Science and maths are treated differently). The professors trust their students to do the reading, engage with the texts, and to come to class both prepared and ready to jump into the discussion. On a surface level, do you see how easy it is to let some readings slip by if you don’t technically have anything “due”?
To put it simply, yes, it is possible to get by skimping on reading. We’re all human, we’re all busy, it happens. But what I love so much about the English/UEA system is that it really creates a sense of drive. Only you can make yourself do the work. No one is checking in on you through Blackboard posts or pop quizzes. It is a system designed to create trust between teachers and students and to foster solid self-discipline within the student body. If you want to be successful at uni here in England, you have to bear the responsibilities and keep up with your work. If you want to do well on your summative, you have got to be self-motivated.
This structure of mutual trust is exactly why I enjoy classes at UEA so much. Not because I can take a break from work at times, if needed, but because there is so much trust instilled in students… trust and a solid reassurance of what we can handle. We’re adults after all, and we pay good money to get a great education — why shouldn’t we be trusted? What is a rushed post online or a high percentage attendance grade going to prove? It is forced participation as opposed to willing participation. And that makes all the difference.