In the past few weeks, Flavia, Dr. Crazy and Tenured Radical have written about their undergraduate years, professors that impacted them (or not), and how those years influenced their future, their decisions of becoming professors and their current practice in the classroom. I will not write about that now (that's a long story and I don't have the time), but I do have a pedagogical question that is somehow related to those posts.
I've been going over the final paper proposal that my students in the Civ class turned in on Monday. Mostly they are what you expect. A few are brilliant, many are solid, and one or two are a lost case. I am supposed to return them next Monday, with comments, suggestions, etc. I've been doing that without a problem, but there is one case where I am not sure how to proceed. It is a proposal by a above average student. Ze is a sophomore. My feeling is that the student is onto something really original, but still hasn't figured it out yet clearly. It is a topic I have very little knowledge about (theology and politics in Latin America), so I can't really guide him too much. The proposal could lead to a great paper, but it also has the potential to become a disorganized mess, and that would certainly affect the student final grade. That's when Flavia's post really came back, about being the above average student who never really got too much feedback and sailed through with A-/B+. I don't know what to do with the student proposal. The easy route would be to write suggestions to scale it back to a level where I know ze would get a B+ or A- in the final paper. But I love seeing a student who is ambitious (in a good way) and challenges hirself, and would hate to feel I'm short-changing hir. On the other hand, since my knowledge of the topic is really limited, I would hate to let him go ahead and maybe only get a B-/C+ because I wasn't able to guide hir and ze couldn''t pull it off.
What would you do in my position? I have until Monday, so suggestions are welcome.