Monday, February 26, 2007

And now grading from the Prof's view...

Dear Judy ,

Hi. I sympathize with what you are feeling.  Grading can be very arbitrary; if the assignment is too straight forward there is no room for students to think about the question.  Yet by not spelling out every expectation, some students are going to guess or infer or go off on their own unique brain storm, which then makes their answer look "wrong".

Students seem to want class assignments to be a contract:  If the student does precisely what the teacher requested, then  the full points are given.  If the teacher did not precisely specify, then the contract is a poor one and the teacher is responsible for lack of clarity and must compensate the student for mental suffering.

To what extent is college suppose to be a protected bubble where you will never misunderstand an assignment or get a bad grade or have to do something which hasn't been fully specified?  I am not asking you to answer this question, I just genuinely wonder what my obligation in this regard is suppose to be.  The answer from students seems to be: the instructor must explain everything that is desired, and anything less is a failure on the teacher's part. 

Out in the real world, people submit brilliant grants which don't get funded because they are not what the funders were "looking for".  Writers write screen players for TV shows that are barely look at. Do you think actors who audiion for a a part can get angry because the directors didn't really explain what they were looking for?  You might say, "No" because no one forced the actor to audition, while I, Judy, and being forced to do the assignment.   Therefore it is unfair to force me (Judy) to do something without telling me exactly what to do.

The teaching fellow and I discussed a number of resolutions.  We decided to let people drop their lowest grade.  Under some circumstances, we will simply ask students to rewrite an assignment or let students complete an alternative assignment.   This means that you won't necessarily be penalized with a 0.  I am happy to let you write an alternative assignment.  Why don't you think about it and communicate with me later on.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Last, will the test also include information from the power points that was not included on the study guide? Or will the test be ONLY the study guide?

Its Saturday. I answered:

In creating the study guide, I looked at each question on the test and I tried to make sure that the topic of the question was on the study guide.

However, reasonable people might disagree. You might claim that the item on the study guide was only partly related to something on the test. You might claim that the study guide question was very specific and the test question was general or vice versa. Indeed, I am bracing myself for post-test accusations that the study guide was not fair. I imagine students claiming, "You said all we needed to know was on the study guide! But look here.... we needed to know this and it wasn't on the study guide! You've got to discount that item because its not fair because it wasn't on the study guide!!!!"

So all I can say is what I wrote above. I tried to make sure that the topic of the question was on the study guide.

I did not do the following: I did not imagine that someone off the street who had never been to the class could take the study guide and all the reading, hunt for material about the study guide item and then study that material, and then do well on the test.

And then I reread. I deleted the material about bracing myself....

But I brace myself.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Favorite Book of 2007

Anna is forced to become the mistress of the Nazi warden after her friend in the resistance is killed.

In the days afer finishing "Those who save us", I wanted to talk about it. Edmond humored me, but he wanted to make his own points about the book. One of these was: "Don't you think the Obersturmfuhrer was the most compelling character?"

Except I didn't. Anna was the most compelling for me.

I lost myself in the book -- read it, wanted to return to it when I wasn't reading it, didn't want it to end -- because I could believe that what was happening to Anna was happening to me. I could imagine that I was her.

I wanted it to be 1944 again. I wanted to be back in the bakery. I wanted Jenna Blum to write a sequel (crazy because the book already alternates between 1940 and 1997 and thus we "know" the following decades of the story). But why? The characters were starving. Anna was so hungry at one point that she got dizzy when she saw a mustard stain on the Obersturmfuher's jacket. She wanted to lick the stain.

I wonder what if would like to be hungry beyond being so buzy I skipped lunch.

Was that time (or Jenn'a book) so compelling because we crave to live in a time that is more laden with meaning than our own?