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.

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