After a series of lawsuits brought by the Department of Education, the for-profit college, Corinthian, recently went under. However, the federal loans Corinthian students had taken out to pay for their educations were not forgiven.
Fifteen former Corinthian students wrote a very public letter to the DOE describing why they were refusing to pay their debts, also addressing fellow students burdened by crushing student loans. The letter is an interesting example of an effective emotional appeal. You may want to discuss it in the context of persuasive messages.
How to Introduce the Assignment
To activate prior knowledge and to stimulate critical thinking, ask students how they feel about student loan debt. No doubt a lively debate will ensue without much further prompting. Before showing students the letter, the following questions may be helpful:
- How would you argue if you appealed to an institution able to forgive your student loan debt?
Students will most likely exhibit strong feelings and, therefore, mostly appeal to the emotions of the recipient. If they provide rational arguments, use the opportunity to categorize the two appeals on the board or your audio-visual equipment.
- Why would the students choose to write a public letter?
Social media are made for appeals such as the one initiated by the Corinthian Fifteen. The subject is hotly debated, and the public is likely to side with the embattled students. More students might come forward to join the fight (that number seems to have risen to about 100 at this time). Also, the institution, here the Department of Education, might take the letter more seriously when it is in the public eye.
- What kind of appeal does the letter represent? Is it emotional, rational, or mixed?
The letter appeals to emotions. Students need to know that emotional appeals can be very effective but that in business a rational appeal is usually expected and preferred. Encourage students to find evidence in the text. The absence of specific details, statistics, and practical reasons points clearly to an emotional appeal.
- How does the language used in the letter affect the appeal?
The students are using evocative, colorful language meant to draw attention to their plight (predatory empire, immoral system). They are calling for action in short declarative sentences that read like memorable slogans (for example, Join our fight. Erase these loans. We won’t pay.)
- Is this letter likely to achieve its purpose? Is it effective? If not, how could it be improved?
We don’t know what will happen, but student loans are front and center in the public debate. The Corinthian Fifteen’s letter might rally others to their side. Besides, many solid, rational reasons can be cited that strongly support actions to lower student debt and provide access to college for as many talented young people as possible. The future of the country depends on an educated workforce.
Discussing the Model Documents
First show the unmarked public letter, and read the document paragraph by paragraph with the class. Solicit students’ feedback after each section. Encourage students to use their gut feelings and common sense. Help students identify how the writers sound (their writing tone.) This will help the group pick up on the letter’s emotional content.
After reading and discussing the entire document, you may want to show the annotated letter. Discussing the comments will reinforce the work the class as a whole has accomplished.
Please let us know how the assignment worked for you and your students!
Student Letter – Plain Unannotated
Student Letter – Annotated
© Guffey/Loewy 2015
© Guffey/Loewy 2015
It’s tempting to open up to colleagues who often become friends. However, revealing the wrong kinds of information to a fellow worker can be a career killer. Show your professionalism in the workplace by not committing any of the ten taboos listed below.
- Admitting you hate your job. Don’t be the downer who sinks the morale of everyone around you. Remember that bosses know there’s always someone ready to replace you! If you voice your dissatisfaction with your current job, you may be out before you were planning on it.
- Saying so-and-so is incompetent. You are probably not breaking this news—your coworkers know who can do what—and your insensitivity will come back to you.
- Discussing religious and political beliefs. The workplace is the wrong place to discuss hot button issues. Besides, you may alienate or offend a colleague unintentionally and hurt your own career trajectory.
- Telling how much you earn. This opens doors to jealousy and endless comparisons. It’s a no-win for you.
- Friending colleagues or your boss on Facebook. It’s too easy for inappropriate behavior to be seen by a coworker or your boss looking through your Facebook posts. Once it’s been seen, it cannot be unseen, and you’ll never be viewed in the same way. Also, any records or data may remain online practically forever.
- Spilling private matters—yours and other people’s. There’s a reason intimate matters are considered private, especially in the workplace. Whether you’re a sad single or a swinging one, keep such personal matters to yourself at work. Likewise, keep mum about what you know or suspect about your coworkers.
- Confessing you’re after someone’s job. Trumpeting your ambitions, especially if they mean someone else’s loss, make you appear selfish and insensitive.
- Describing your drinking escapades. The more you talk about your crazy weekend of inebriation, the more your colleagues will think you are immature and lacking in good judgment.
- Sharing off-color jokes. If you have to think twice about whether to tell a joke, don’t tell it. You will likely offend someone and appear thoughtless.
- Acknowledging you’re job hunting. The minute you reveal your plan to leave, you’re persona non grata. Wait until after you’ve found a job to make the announcement.
- In what ways can talking about your personal life not show you in the best light and affect how your colleagues think of you? Can you think of examples that illustrate how workers can sabotage their careers with indiscretions online and offline?
- If you are eager to advance in your job, how might you behave to minimize others’ potentially negative reactions to your ambition?
- Many employee handbooks explicitly forbid the sharing of salary information. Why? How can discussing salary create wedges between coworkers?
Forbes, March 2015
By Janet Mizrahi
For many college instructors, summer is the time to catch up on cleaning out the closets or to get busy on a research project. But for others—myself included—summer means teaching intense and sometimes grueling courses.
This summer will mark the fifteenth in a row I have taught summer session at my university, and I have learned a few tips to keep my classes rigorous, my students engaged, and myself sane. I share them with you below.
- Plan ahead. If at all possible, prepare your syllabus and daily lessons well in advance. Because most summer sessions are compressed (a 15-week class that ordinarily meets for an hour three times a week becomes a six-week class that meets for four hours a day, four days a week), I work backward from the last day of the session and create the entire syllabus. I decide what I want to accomplish by the end of the session and define the overall course objectives. Then I plug in assignment due dates and readings to support each task. Having a complete syllabus on day one helps students plan and see what lies ahead. For the instructor, planning provides a roadmap and structure that takes away some of the anxiety to accomplish so much in so little time.
- Talk honestly with your students about the workload. In a workshop about effective teaching methods during summer session I attended on my campus, I took away some valuable information. I learned that research showed students preferred knowing about the difficulties facing them in summer school to sugar coating the course demands. My own experience matches this research. Students who are serious about learning appreciate knowing my expectations. Students who come to summer session under the misguided notion that it will somehow be easier than regular session are quickly disabused of that notion!
- “Sell” the course material for greater student buy-in. We teach business communication; what a great topic to use as ammunition to encourage students to stay focused! I repeatedly play up the practical side of what I teach, and students seem to respond. Remind them that they’ll soon want to stand out among many job applicants, and that a great way to do so is to be an effective communicator. All the skills we teach are applicable to the real world in ways students can readily comprehend. Remind them—frequently.
- Don’t try to teach the same way. Summer is different. You will very likely have a varied student population; new transfers, first-time college students, or seniors who need that very last class to graduate can all be in the same section. You may have less face time with students than in the regular year, and you will definitely have less overall time. Adjust your expectations and think about just how much students can realistically accomplish. Another consideration that affects your teaching is your summer students’ situations. I find students busily shuffling between jobs, internships, and two or even three summer session classes. I have had to change my expectations to accommodate the reality of what my students are doing besides my class and how stressful a time summer can be for them.
- Create daily sessions with varied activities. Start each class session armed with a detailed lesson plan. I like to vary between lecture, discussion, workshops, and group work, and I even go so far as to approximate the time I’ll spend on each task. Depending on the length of the day’s session, I may plan two separate topics, but even if I don’t, I make sure to shake things up so students are not sitting and being talked at for lengthy periods. If you can, plan to spend some days in a writing lab so students can work while you supervise. (I teach my entire class in a lab equipped with computers, but many of my students prefer to use their own laptops.)
- Stay on top of grading. For your own sanity and to keep students informed, return graded work as soon as you can. The last thing you want is a gigantic stack of papers to grade at the end of the session. Think about ending the session with an oral presentation to minimize your grading of written work.
Below are some links to college teaching blogs and articles on pedagogy you may find helpful. Although only one is specific to summer session, all are excellent resources to help you make summer school a meaningful experience for students and a minimally stressful one for yourself.
A Brief Summary of the Best Practices in College Teaching
Letting the Students Lead the Class Discussions
The Last Class: A Critical Course Component
What College Students Should Know Before Taking a Summer Course