Stealth Students, or, Long-Fuse Effs

Posted on by Brooke

(N.B.: Because I blog under my proper name, I drafted this post at least one full year ago—maybe a year and a half, or even two years—then saved it to post later. This way, it is clear that the post does not concern any of my current teaching sections, but rather a situation that simply crops up periodically. Any resemblance to current students, living or dead, is coincidental and regretted.)

Professors, do you occasionally find yourself perplexed to observe a student who repeatedly fails to accomplish the assignments, but never steps forward to talk about it? Even when you have called attention, during class time, with heavy eye contact, to the part of the syllabus that says they can’t pass under such circumstances? No contact, no drop slip, no…anything? Perversely, such a student usually continues to take the quizzes or exams, on which basis I theorize that they simply do not believe anybody would actually fail them for a course, and that my warnings are a part of simply keeping up appearances.

Students: have you been or known such a student? (Anonymous comments encouraged!)

Policy-wise, it isn’t a murky situation: the student will not pass the course. And between the syllabus and the verbal heads-ups, there aren’t any doubts about communication. But…what, if anything, do you do? Options include:

  • Do nothing to interfere with the student’s karma: it’s a free country;

  • Reach out to see what gives;

  • I guess I am out of options at this point.

What is your own habitual practice with those students who are failing to turn in the work, but who keep showing up to class and taking—usually failing—quizzes and exams? The ones who have never come to you to acknowledge that they aren’t handing in the assignments?

[Stealth Students, or, Long-Fuse Effs was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2011/02/21. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]