The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, June 14, 1983 - Page 7
PROFESSOR CHALLENGES 'U' GRADING TRADITION
Psyching students to learn
By ROB FRANK
If Jim McConnell had his way, many
University professors would be packing
The 58-year-old psychology professor
born in Okmulgee, Okla. contends that
traditional grading policies prevent
students from learning and professors
who refuse to abandon their old ways
shouldn't be teaching at the University.
TEACHING has become a power trip
for most faculty members, said Mc-
Connell, who came to the University in
1946. They have lost sight of teaching
students to learn by focusing too much
on grades, he said.
"Teaching is a power trip. To teach
well you have to give up power. If I
teach organic (chemistry) I can keep
you out of medical school," McConnell
"Any time I'm teaching a course I
have a commodity called grades which
I artificially cause a scarcity of. So,
there are only a certain number of 'A's.
In that way, I can force you to do things
MCCONNELL uses an unconven-
tional grading policy which has made
his introductory psychology course one
of the most popular on campus. Studen-
I assume that it's my job to get students to learn... If
they don't . . . then I'm in trouble, and I should be
-Prof. Jim McConnell
ts in his class receive either an "A" or
an incomplete which McConnell said
encourages students to learn, not com-
pete for high marks.
"I assume that it's my job to get
students to learn. I have to do whatever
has to be done to achieve that goal.
If they don't ... then I'm in trouble, and,
I should be fired," McConnell said.
"Most teachers just won't accept'
this," he added.
MCCONNELL has been a pioneer in
the study of psychology breaking
tradition few would dare to question.
Dissatisfied with basic Freudian and
behavior theories, McConnell adopted
his own "holistic" approach to
psychology a mixture of theories in ad-
dition to McConnell's own work.
McConnell earned a bachelors degree
in psychology from Louisiana State
University and a doctorate from the
University of Texas. Ike has done ex-
tensive research on the hiochemistry of
memory, and on autistic children, which
has brought critical reviews from the
scientific community. McConnell's
colleagues dissaprove of his satiric
style and unconventional research
But his offbeat teaching style attracts
flocks of students to his course which is
consistently filled early during
AMONG THE unique things McCon-
nell does is host a pizza party with
an open bar for students following the
first exam in his Psych 192 class.
Unlike most professors who schedule
weekly office hours, McConnell instead
invites students to go out for coffee once
a week - and he picks up the tab.
And students in McConnell's Psych
192 class don't pay for the text book,
which he wrote. Students borrow copies
for the semester and may purchase the
book at the end of the term.
BUT HIS textbook, one of the most
popular in the nation, sells more than
100,000 copies a year. McConnell said he
is very satisfied with the sales.
"Let me put it this way," he said, "it
first came out in 1974 and if you were to
measure it the same way they do the
New York Times bestsellers, the book
would have been (on the list), almost
every week since then."
He is currently working on a second
book on educational psychology which
publishers say should also be a success.
MEANWHILE, McConnell is content
living in his large house between Ann
Arbor and Ypsilanti which sits near the
Huron River. Complete with almost
every convenience imaginable, Mc-
Connell is a video game addict and has
more than 50 cartridges which plug into
the giant TV screen in his living room.
Among his other conveniencies are a
gold Mercedes with a license plate that
reads "BEHAVE", equipped with a
stereo that would put any home system
to shame. Even McConnell's bathrooms
are filled with the sound of classical
McConnell has had a passion for
classical music since the early '40s. He
rarely listens to modern music because
it is "too left hemisphere," he said.
"IT IS TOO intellectual, they've
destroyed rhythm, they've destroyed
patterns, they've destroyed melody,"
A self-proclaimed "serious" collec-
tor, McConnell plans a move to a larger
house in the fall partially to store the
tape collection which now fills two
bedrooms and most of his living room.
Despite his fascination with the
newest gadgets, McConnell's beliefs
about education are very down to earth.
"Teachers should try to put themselves
out of business, when you finish mine or
any course, you shouldn't need the
teacher anvmnr. 11
Psychology professor Jim McConnell relaxes after an afternoon of work on his newest book which studies educational psychology.