Required Readings

Grade changes, exit interview, first-gen collegians, teacher ed, ed tech, and more: Required Readings, 2.16.15

Happy President’s Day and Lundi Gras, readers!

We’ll start this week’s Required Readings with an opinion piece burning up the internet over the weekend: Dear Student: No, I Won’t Change the Grade You Deserve. Thoughts?

An interview with the departing leader of a large public school system in the D.C. Metro area emphasizes the importance of information literacy, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.

Will open education resources replace textbooks?

The challenges first-generation college students face include issues of identity at home and on campus.

Australian education reforms seek proof of evidence-based teaching training.

Caveat emptor: Five questions for teachers to ask about education technology.

Why science is so hard to believe

Finally, we have two unique arguments by lawmakers against increases in education funding. One Mississippi legislator associated the non-need for additional funds with the distribution of “welfare crazy checks” in his community, while a Virginia representative and college professor noted that Socrates trained Plato on a rock, so “huge” education funding is not necessary.

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librarienne

librarienne

Librarienne is a university librarian who sees her professional mission as teaching the masses how to separate the wheat from the chaff in today's expanding universe of information, that everything you read requires a critical eye, and how to properly use apostrophes.

6 Comments

  1. February 16, 2015 at 3:18 pm —

    “We’ll start this week’s Required Readings with an opinion piece burning up the internet over the weekend: Dear Student: No, I Won’t Change the Grade You Deserve. Thoughts?”
    Many.
    The article gets off on a bad foot, citing the well-maligned “every child gets a trophy” trope, which is to me about as much a red flag as “political correctness”.
    There are very good reasons for educators to praise efforts. There is a mass of evidence to show that praising effort encourages students to work harder (and by that also get better results). And we also know that not all students start out equally, so praising the work they put in can be a way to acknowledge that.
    “Every child gets a trophy” is usually about sports. About getting kids to exercise, about their health. Not about raising the future olympic team. Unless you take pleasure in watching the fat kid cry, you should reward children for doing their best.
    So much for the set up, now for the content.
    Unprofessional.
    I sincerely hope they were just blowing off steam and that they wouldn’t actually send that email.
    What struck me the most was how completely infallible they thought their grades to be. Apart from one or two who thought that they might reevaluate their verdict, the responses all solely put the blame on the student. Even though the scenario put to them was very vague, many went to great lengths detailing the failure of the student. There was no way their own verdict could have been mistaken.*
    Another thing was the complete lack of respect for the student as a human being. That’s why I hope they were just venting their own frustration. Would you write such a mail to a student? What would be the goal of such a mail? Make the kid drop out of college? Because the majority of them does not offer anything that might actually help the student. Still being in college I can easily empathize with the student: You worked hard, you did your best and you expected a good grade because you’re actually convinced that you wrote a very good paper, and you get a C. You take all your courage and write a mail. Maybe it is clumsy. Maybe it sounds demanding. Maybe it sounds impolite and entitled because you’re not a native speaker and your mother tongue uses a lot less hedges**. But it is a sincere attempt to understand. And you get a mail back that basically tells you you’re a waste of their time.

    * Apart from the numerous studies that show the lack of reliability and objectivity inherent in most grading, especially essay grading, here’s a little story from my own college: Any final thesis needs two people who grade it. My current prof’s predecessor would argue over every single grade out of principle. Whatever grade the English literature prof gave, he’d go one mark below and argue.
    ** Germans sound notoriously impolite. We get the meaning across, and in German nobody would bat an eyelid, but in English we sound like horribly entitled brats.

    • February 16, 2015 at 6:23 pm —

      Yikes, all the responses but the first one were horrific! I can’t believe real professors put their actual names and faces on them. Especially the junior faculty and grad students.

      • February 16, 2015 at 7:07 pm —

        I thought Eir-Anne Edgar’s reply was reasonable, what issue did you have with it?
        I agree that many of the responses sounded like letting off steam, rather than a serious reply. I found especially confusing the professor who had given a C to a paper she described as having met none of the requirements for the assignment. Why is she in the habit of assigning a C to papers which completely fail?

        • February 16, 2015 at 7:10 pm —

          She is totally condescending (scare quotes? blood, sweat, and tears?) and either clueless or deliberately disingenuous about the realities of grade inflation.

          • February 16, 2015 at 7:12 pm

            Also “poor me, grad students are soooo busy, waah” (therefore your problem is unimportant and does not merit serious consideration)

      • February 17, 2015 at 7:30 am —

        I think that one of the problems is that especially at university level many people have a lot of competence in their subject matter but really none in education. I know here they have only started recently to even offer voluntary classes in education for grad students and lecturers.
        Often, all these people know about how to make up an assignment or an exam and how to grade them is what they learned from their own instructors.
        In the introduction the article even mentions how burdensome it is having to explain your grading process. Folks, that should be something you do before giving the assignment! If you don’t tell your students what you expect from them, i.e. how you will grade their assignments, how are they to know what is good work and what is not?
        Some of the worst exams I’ve ever taken were created by highly educated people who were real experts on the subject matter. If your final exam consists of 3 questions that could be reasonably answered in 2 sentences each, but takes 90 minutes, there is something missing.
        I also see it in my brother in law, who occasionally teaches college classes. He’s got a PhD in biology. I don’t doubt that he’s really competent in his subject. I have also seen his exams or have talked to him about exas and assignments. They’re bad. they’re really bad.

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