Bed is a better option 1

February 25, 2005

How depressing to find "experts" identifying procrastination's causes as "what goes on inside students' minds" ("On your mark, get set... hesitate", February 18,).

Having talked to hundreds of students about how they manage their studies, it is clear to me that the way they are treated - in particular the confusing messages they receive - is to blame.

Students are given group projects to develop their teamwork skills, then slapped down if they collaborate on writing essays.

They are hammered for "plagiarism", when the essence of academic learning is appropriating the work of others.

They are asked a question, then pressed to respond with an argument, when surely what a question traditionally calls for is an answer .

Past exam papers show that students are expected to "discuss", but their teachers never say: "This is how we discuss." Exams do not test candidates'

knowledge and understanding but their ability to guess how to interpret the questions.

Seventy per cent of students procrastinate? I'm not in the least surprised.

Staying in bed and pulling the duvet over your head is not wholly irrational behaviour in a situation Kafka would have been hard put to invent.

Peter Levin

London School of Economics

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