February 19, 2009

"[Students] have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

And, so?

It is up to the teachers — and the administrators who support us — to structure the courses so there is nothing magic about getting to the best grades. It's actually great that the students care about achievement, and it's fine that they want grades that will help them get things they want. It's also fine that they analyze their situation and do what is efficient to get what they want. The teacher must to set up the exam or other coursework so that efficient, ambitious students will have to do what needs to be done to learn what the grade represents.

Now, the linked article irritates the hell out of me because it is teachers bitching about the students and their whiny entitled attitude.
"Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark," Professor Grossman said. "Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it,” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.
Take responsibility. You teachers are making the students act like that. Don't blame them and don't blame their parents. Set high standards and apply them. And don't let them ask for a grade change. In law school, we have a rule against changing the grades. I grade my students — anonymously — based on an exam that is designed to require real engagement with the class and to prevent shortcuts, and once those grades are entered, that's it. I'll talk to you about your exam, but it will be clear that nothing that is said can possibly change your grade, and my school backs me up on that with a rule. Teachers, if you don't like your students, change yourself.

102 comments:

Skeptical said...

When I was a young prof, I dealt with this sort of bullshit all the time. But when you get the confidence -- and it should be embarrassing to you if you've been teaching a few years and still lack that confidence -- students stop looking for handouts.

I don't mind students asking for a re-grade. It of course means that the grade can go up, stay the same, or go down.

k*thy said...

Exactly, and it's not just teachers. It saves a lot of time and energy and grief when I remember to focus on what I'm responsible for - keeping my own side of the street clean, so to speak, instead of an other's.

rhhardin said...

I see my problem in school now. Indifference to high grades.

vet66 said...

Being a student "STUDERE" means to direct one's zeal at...study maybe? I assumed I would be a student for life and sans the in- vogue entitlement mentality popular for the last few decades, opened my mind to the wonders of my ignorance.

The learning experience is priceless and a joy unto itself. If it is used as a box to check off as a speed bump to negotiate on the way to material success, the point of the exercise is lost.

When I stopped worrying about grades and started enjoying the course and it's potential, my grades matched my zeal for the subject at hand.

traditionalguy said...

The grading process is a necessary quality control inspection for a school that wants to turn out educated graduates. And human nature is that people do not do what you expect, but only do what you inspect. With that said, the abuse of the necessary testing/grading inspections of the students arises from a bad attitude on a professor's part in that he/she is in a contest to beat the students. The teacher is not there to beat the students who work hard out of a grade like an opponent in a football game. That's only the mean streak arising in a jealous teacher who doesn't like to see young successful people. But it is a good life lesson in there somewhere.(Watch the first episode of Band of Brothers for an account of that kind of teacher).Teachers should be in a leadership role.

Shanna said...

I had a friend in high school who used to cry to the teachers and got her grades changed up. With another person, who was the valedictorian of my class btw, her mother (who was on the school board) got one of her grades changed by the principal, because the teacher wouldn’t change it. It used to piss me off, but getting your teacher to change your grade is some sort of people skill. It probably helps you get along later in the work world. It doesn’t seem terribly ethical, but it’s certainly practical.

As for the teacher’s complaints, they should be able to explain the reasoning for their grades. And they should be able to stand by them, if they’re fair. I don’t have any sympathy for them. I do hate those teachers that seem to want to give low grades, regardless of the quality of the work.

Sloanasaurus said...

In law school, we have a rule against changing the grades. I grade my students — anonymously — based on an exam that is designed to require real engagement with the class and to prevent shortcuts, and once those grades are entered, that's it.

This is kind of BS. Law Profs are never neutral. I remember one student in Property, a 5 credit class, receiving a 95 for his final grade, while msot classes the highest you could score was a 90-92. That is the equivilent of receiving a double A in a class. I don't care how great his exam was, this was totally unfair to the rest of the students. This professor obviously knew who he was and rigged his grade.

The best thing students can do is learn how to game the system - to play favorties to professors' interests and ideology which, increases their odds of not getting the short end of the stick when the professor is having a bad day. To a student its all about risk reduction. How do you reduce the risk that you will get the shaft from a professor on any given day.

No matter how much professors think they are being neutral or independent, they really aren't and can't be - its human nature.

Lem said...

Watched Judge Bork last night relate the story on his first day of law school his teacher walked in sat down smoked a cigar and after awhile, (I’m paraphrasing) said “we are going to be here a while and you are going to be here awhile.” Now I don’t I have anything to say to you... you are too ignorant.”

Bork said that made a big impression on him.

Original Mike said...

I have taught for so long that it's difficult to come up with "new" questions, so I do a lot of recycling of questions I've given before. I usually tweak them, but they're essentially the same. When hearing this, it's not unusual for someone to object, "but what if they study all your old tests?", as if that's cheating. My response is, Great! If they go back and study all the old test questions, is that not called learning? If they can do all the old test questions, do they not deserve a good grade?

MadisonMan said...

I was struck by this passage:

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it,” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.


So this paper proves the null hypothesis. Absolutely nothing definitive comes from it. What a waste of paper.

Effort does count for something in my classes. If a student has put forth effort, and they straddle a grade boundary, I'm more likely to push them up than down compared to a student I've never seen.

ricpic said...

Would it be effective to take five minutes out of the first class lecture, ten minutes tops, and state very clearly that those who have taken your course for an easy A or B best go elsewhere?

I believe that would allow slacker types time to re-register for another course if they acted quickly (?)

Bissage said...

My law school had a policy against changing grades too.

Still, they raised one of my grades from a B to an A.

Arithmetic error.

I am not making this up.

Such things tend to confirm suspicion in the fairnness of law school grading, in general.

Salamandyr said...

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

I don't get this. It seems like an unnecessary overreaction to grade inflation. So, he tells them what the class is expected to teach them, and if they learn that perfectly, they are only mediocre. Does he then explain what they must accomplish to get this A? Doesn't that then become what he actually expects of them?

If I tell my students that the class requires a 25 page paper, perfectly written, but that will only get them a C; for an A they have to write a 100 page paper that is not only perfectly written, showing complete grasp of the subject, but complete grasp of subjects that I the teacher haven't even bothered to teach them, then isn't that the standard?

Pogo said...

I learned early on that teachers were rarely without an agenda. The game was to figure out how they wanted me to respond.

This did not apply to math, science, or history classes, however. That fact alone taught me alot.

In college, I took a class in Drawing 101. In the first class, the teacher had us each explain our major and why we were taking the class. I knew the game right off. Everyone but me was a fine arts major.

"Chemistry", I said, to the obvious scorn of the teacher and other students. Said the prof: "So, did you think this was going to be an easy A? Well, you're wrong. I grade on skill here."
I fell silent.

Little did he know that I was able to draw, and quite well, really. Better, in fact, than some of his prize pupils. One task was to do a realistic portrait and skew the image by stretching it one way or the other. He and the others used graph paper to do it. I did it freehand, and it turned out really well. God damn, but that pissed him off. He did give me an A, but he was not fond of me.

My point?
Hell if I know. I've always enjoyed that little story though.

TreeJoe said...

I have a serious problem with both the comments on this posting and a quote from the posting itself. First, the quote:

"I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said."

This professor is then saying that if a student does what he tells them to do and meets the requirements for the course, they will earn the equivalent of a 2.0 GPA (3.0 is a B, 4.0 is an A).

In today's world, a 2.0 will actually PREVENT you from getting certain things. Teacher's in the state of Pennsylvania must have a minimum 3.2 GPA to get certified (IIRC, may be 3.0).

Scholarships are rejected, doors are closed, and avenues of higher learning are no longer available.

All for, in this professor's mind, "...do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements..."

This is flat out wrong, and representative of why some professors give easy A's while other struggle with proper grading.

If a student performs to expectation and does all required work (i.e. learns the curriculum), they should earn a grade representative of meeting that standard.

For professors who deliberately make it difficult for a student to earn a high grade, outside of actually showing competence in the core curriculum, then they are conciously deciding to make that student's long-term life more difficult.

On that same note: How many professors have taken a course (yes, a full 3-credit course) on designing a test and it's associated questions? If you haven't done that, and you grade students on a standardized test you created, then you should fail as a professor by the standard put forth above....

Joe

Bissage said...

On the other hand, I very, very much participated in one of my law school classes and I got a B after an anonymous final exam.

I went to see the professor afterwards -- not to bust balls but sincerely to see what I could have done better.

When he saw that he'd given me a B he looked down at the floor as he shook his head like he was a little ashamed or something.

Fifteen years later I remember his exact words: "There's something wrong with how we grade people."

The B stood but I felt pretty good about the situation.

I'm easily flattered.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

A generation ago at a well-known liberal arts college in New England a certain professor was renowned for how he had dealt with a student demanding a higher grade.

She had received a C, and complained that in high school she'd been a straight-A student. To which the professor replied "Yes, around here that's pretty average. And average work gets a C."

Big Mike said...

That's the cool thing about teaching technical subjects. Your proof is valid or it is not. Don't tell me how many hours you spent on it! If you spent 15 minutes and got it right, then it's right. If you spent 100 hours and still didn't get it, then you didn't get it.

Comp Sci is even easier. Your program ran or it didn't. All you have to do is structure a test so that the student can't do well unless he or she understood what they did in the program. It's always funny to see the gorgeous blonde former cheerleader types come into class practically draped all over nerds (the converse also holds -- I've seen tall, handsome preppy and jock types walk into class holding hands with mousy female computer nerds). If they learned from each other that's still learning. If they just let their, ah, friend do all the work then they'll blow the exams.

MadisonMan said...

If you haven't done that, and you grade students on a standardized test you created, then you should fail as a professor by the standard put forth above....

I think not taking a test design course (absurd!) is pretty average, and I don't see why average is failing.

I will question the implicit statement in your post that average students should not be excluded from scholarship considerastions, etc. Meeting standard requirements, to me, is being lazy. You are skating by, doing just enough. I don't think that mindset should be rewarded with open doors and scholarships and teaching certificates. I think that's what any professor should emphasize if they are saying meeting standards is C work.

Tibore said...

"In college, I took a class in Drawing 101. In the first class, the teacher had us each explain our major and why we were taking the class. I knew the game right off. Everyone but me was a fine arts major.

"Chemistry", I said, to the obvious scorn of the teacher and other students. Said the prof: "So, did you think this was going to be an easy A? Well, you're wrong. I grade on skill here."
I fell silent."


Really? Damn, Pogo, that sucks. To me, that's not a good teacher.

I was an undergrad chem major with a bio minor, and I ended up taking the basic drawing class too, mainly because it fulfilled a required elective credit outside my major and was a prerequisite for a photography elective I really wanted to get in to. My instructor turned out to be oddly excited that there were non art majors in her class. Her reaction was accidentally condescending - it amounted to 'That's so awesome, you science guys need to get out more and expand your horizons!...' - but I took it in the complementary spirit it was intended. Anyway, she seemed psyched that some of us weren't there because it was required (not me; again, it was a prereq for something else), but instead thought it might be fun.

I fear that there are some instructors who think it's a good idea to be down on students. That is not necessarily a good idea. It has its places - basic training for the military, for example, should probably do its best to remove as much ego and self-centeredness as possible, so some of that probably must involve a necessary degree of humility "training" (someone else with military experience should feel free to either confirm this or correct me if I'm wrong) - but I'm at a loss to see why it's applied in circumstances where it's potentially counterproductive. It's just as easy for an instructor to say "This course will be difficult for the following reasons - X,Y,Z - and it's up to you to keep up" without implying that someone taking it is doing so for superficial reasons.

Then again, who knows. Maybe the guy was trying to "inspire through curmudgeonry". I can't tell.

mcallen3 said...

it seems to me, based on what I have seen with my kids and as a law school teacher that the students' expectations are entirely rational. The have "earned" Bs simply by showing up. Why should they expect this to change at college. Seems to me a weird and pejorative use of the word "entitlement." I think what they must mean is expectation. The students expect a certain grade for a certain input. School is mostly boring BS. Why would anyone do more than they had to to get they ticket punched to get out and to the next level?

mcg said...

That's the cool thing about teaching technical subjects. Your proof is valid or it is not.

You got that right. I'm relieved not to have to deal with this BS. In my class, if someone in my class does just what they are supposed to do and meets my standards, then they get a perfect score, an A+. Anything less works and the grade works its way down from there. It is a concrete, attainable, but very difficult standard. I sure do like it this way.

Jim Hu said...

Salamandyr - I'd probably give the 100 page paper a lower grade, since if the assignment was for 25 pages, I would refuse to read the last 75 pages.

JAL said...

Althouse wrote: I grade my students — anonymously — based on an exam that is designed to require real engagement with the class

There probably is an easy explanation, but how does one design a test which requires real engagement with the class but is graded — anonymously?

How does one determine there is real engagement? Is it possible someone might be silent, observant, but non-engaged?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it,”

This sense of entitlement also extends to the younger generation (young whippersnappers dang gummit) in the work force as well. They think they are entitled to a pay check and full benefits for just showing up. Any suggestions that their job performance is substandard or could be improved is met with disdain.

I also blame the parents and society for coddling children, not holding them to responsible standards and giving them a false sense of their own importance.

Sorry, just being a warm body occupying space does not entitle you to a job or money.

Well....except for now in our great new socialist system.

JAL said...

On a bit of a rabbit trail, one of my kids was in one of those gifted-talented programs/ courses whatever. The teacher called distressed because he had done a last minute crappy job on some assignment. She didn't know what to do because he was so smart!

"So? Give him an F." said the hard hearted (?!) mom.

Teaching moment later: "You don't get As because you are smart. Your genes and family life give you your brains, what you *do* with them is what you get credit for."

But yes, there is a weird sense of entitlement out there.

Comes from those exercises where kids get applause for walking across the room without falling down, and every kid gets a trophy.

Lem said...

Judge Bork also quoted Whittaker Chambers “to live is to maneuver”.
It seems to me that teachers should convey that “excellence” is a moving target, and there are no shortcuts.

Let’s say conservatism is the political equivalence of excellence. (that is my opinion btw)
Who is.. more to the point.. What is true conservatism?

Lem said...

Is some ways excellence is like porn... you know it when you see it ;)

Pogo said...

Who knew that focusing on feelings and self-esteem, eliminating competition in schoolyard sports, and handing out participant trophies to all comers would have unintended consequences?

Huh!
Well, live and learn!

Richard Fagin said...

Sloan, I didn't share your law school experience. I found most of the professors were ideologically neutral in grading and generally fair. To get a good grade it was only necessary to write exam answers in a particular format that was surprisingly constant among professors.

Having said that, after 15 years I am STILL pissed off that they didn't just tell me what that format was to begin with. It took a ruined first year (bottom decile) to figure it out.

The BS they hand out on the first day of law school is that they want to train you to "think like a lawyer." Bullcrap! What they really want is for students to write exam answers in the form of a court order or opinion. Worse, instead of making this point clear up front, they let you twist in the wind figuring it out. For some reason, the English majors and poli-sci majors seem to "get it" at first. Of course, when you get to code-based course that require some memorization, those same students generally end up in the can.

I can still picture that lanky brunette in corporations class asking in her whiny, shrill voice, "What's a mortgage bond?" and thinking, "I'm getting an A in this class. Hahahahaah!!"

It's just hazing, a fraternity initiation stunt.

Original Mike said...

As other's have said, technical subjects make this reasonably easy; the more stuff you get right, the higher your grade. Where it gets tricky is the students demands for partial credit. There is a sense of entitlement for that, and I find it really hard to aportion. It means figuring out how each student went astray. One thing I learned when I started grading problems is how many different ways there are to misunderstand something (it appears to be infinite). I do it, but it's really onorous. My objection to partial credit is; "how do you think Neil Armstrong would grade getting to the moon but not back again. Is that a B? C?" Life has a way of escewing partial credit. I've always wanted to hand out an assignment to prepare a grant proposal. Top grade gets an A. Everybody else gets an F (i.e. unfunded). I imagine I'd have a revolt on my hands.

TreeJoe said...

Madison Man said, "I think not taking a test design course (absurd!) is pretty average, and I don't see why average is failing.

I will question the implicit statement in your post that average students should not be excluded from scholarship considerastions, etc. Meeting standard requirements, to me, is being lazy. You are skating by, doing just enough. I don't think that mindset should be rewarded with open doors and scholarships and teaching certificates. I think that's what any professor should emphasize if they are saying meeting standards is C work."


First - If you are a professor who designs standardized tests (i.e. objective) and you have not taken a course on test & question design, then how exactly are you supposed to be designing objective tests? Your ignorance could be ruining peoples' lives. Creating a good objective test takes ALOT of time, effort, and learned skill. If you don't hold your testing to the same standard you hold your students, then you shouldn't be a professor.

Second - My point about the scholarship is captured in this example:

If an A+ student loses a scholarship because they "meet all the standards" of a class and get a C, then the standards weren't set high enough and the grading system wasn't setup to reflect the actual standards.

Further, it's proof of a grading system that is not consistent...and therefore not standardized and objective...and therefore moot.

We have this definition of "average" as someone who is just "showing up". Showing up should be failing, because they didn't do any work necessary to show competence in the curriculum.

However, if the minimum established work required by the course ensures competency in the course, then why would that be rewarded with a C....which is considered a sub-par grade by our established reward system?"

To me, a C shows that someone doesn't actually grasp the core curriculum of a class. It is not defined as "meeting the standards".

This is why there are essentially multiple levels of the same curriculum.

1. A basic class (intro class) should allow individuals to get an A by showing competency (not mastery) in the core curriculum. (Pretty much purely objective)

2. A intermediate class should advance the level of competency needed to get that same A. This isn't about mastery, but about having "fluency", if you will, in the subject matter. Some subjectivity may be introduced into grading.

3. An advanced class is essentially a class teaching and measuring mastery of a subject-matter. This is both complex objective and complex subjective assessment(rarely can mastery be determined by an objective test alone).

About 70% of a current bachelor's degree is composed of introductory classes. About 20% is composed of intermediate classes, and about 10% are mastery level.

You can do the math to see how much a student should be able to accomplish by merely showing competency in basic coursework (objective testing).

This is the foundation of our modern academic reward system. When one professor, or university, screws with it, it ripples throughout the entire system. And affects alot of lives.

Original Mike said...

Your ignorance could be ruining peoples' lives.

Wow.

JAL said...

More rabbit trails:

Just sent a kid to college (last one) in August, so have recently been through the college application process.

Insane. Absolutely insane.

Went to the college large group meetings and campus tours at 6 schools in the southeast. Speeches at two were almost word for word the same ("Look!" I said to daughter, as nice young man in charcoal gray suit with red tie finished up at school #2. "It's John again, from that school this morning!")

The pitch was that they wanted the required courses, but more than that, they wanted students to take highest level courses. (AP in as many classes as possible.) UNC-Chapel Hill, requires a ridiculous number of AP classes to get into consideration. My daughter heard that and said, Thanks, but no thanks. (We didn't even visit there.)

She is smart, motivated, but wanted a life with manageable stress. I thought that was pretty sensible.

My take? You only get to do high school ONCE. (Why do all college courses in high school? Do you have a life?) You can do college the rest of your life ....

All this to say, push comes to shove, many of the most desireable schools, public as well as private, have very high expectations, and a HUGE number of kids who are all equally qualified and equally likely to succeed applying. (Tie in to article -- they are jockeying for that hundedth of a grade point to be the person who gets in!) We continue to hear of kids who had great grades, had extra curricular activities out the whazoo and still didn't get into Chapel Hill...

The solution is simple. 5,000 qualified people for 2,000 spots? Take the top 500 eye grabbing stand outs, and then you stand at the top of the tallest set of stairs on campus and throw the other 4,500 applicants' numbers down the stairs and walk down picking 1,500 up from blindly chosen steps. That would take some of the freakiness out of the process.

Or have a cute little girl pick them out of a spinning ball like those state "education lotteries."

The pressure is very big, and there are many qualified kids. A hundredth of a point makes some kids and parents quiver.

But a bachelor's degree is just the beginning for many folks these days. Most times, the name of the first school simply does not matter that much.

As for graduate school -- If you don't get it at an A or B level ... should you be there?

Lem said...

From the “The tragedy of the commons”

"The Tragedy of the Commons" is an influential article written by Garrett Hardin and first published in the journal Science in 1968.[1] The article describes a dilemma in which multiple individuals acting independently in their own self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared limited resource even where it is clear that it is not in anyone's long term interest for this to happen.

At the beginning of his essay, Hardin draws attention to problems that cannot be solved by technical means (i.e., as distinct from those with solutions that require "a change only in the techniques of the natural sciences, demanding little or nothing in the way of change in human values or ideas of morality"). Hardin contends that this class of problems includes many of those raised by human population growth and the use of the Earth's natural resources.

To make the case for "no technical solutions", Hardin notes the limits placed on the availability of energy (and material resources) on Earth, and also the consequences of these limits for "quality of life". To maximize population, one needs to minimize resources spent on anything other than simple survival, and vice versa. Consequently, he concludes that there is no foreseeable technical solution to increasing both human populations and their standard of living on a finite planet.

The metaphor illustrates the argument that free access and unrestricted demand for a finite resource ultimately dooms the resource through over-exploitation. This occurs because the benefits of exploitation accrue to individuals or groups, each of whom is motivated to maximize use of the resource to the point in which they become reliant on it, while the costs of the exploitation are borne by all those to whom the resource is available (which may be a wider class of individuals than those who are exploiting it). This, in turn, causes demand for the resource to increase, which causes the problem to snowball to the point that the resource is exhausted. The rate at which exhaustion of the resource is realized depends primarily on three factors: the number of users wanting to consume the commons, the consumptiveness of their uses, and the relative robustness of the commons.

The tragedy of the commons has particular relevance in analyzing behaviour in the fields of economics, evolutionary psychology, game theory, politics, taxation, and sociology. Some also see it as an example of emergent behaviour, with the "tragedy" the outcome of individual interactions in a complex system.

Sloanasaurus said...

What they really want is for students to write exam answers in the form of a court order or opinion. Worse, instead of making this point clear up front, they let you twist in the wind figuring it out.

I agree Richard. In fact I recall a legal writing prof who marked me down for saying the "Court SHOULD find in my favor" The prof said I should be more "active" and say the court "MUST." Will, in my first motion before a judge, the judge scolded me by saying, "Sir, for your information the Court mustn't do anything." Fortunately, I had the wisdom to take my lumps rather than blame it on my incompetant legal writing prof.

MadisonMan said...

It's not ruining their lives. It's putting them on a different trajectory. Whether or not a life is ruined is the fault and responsibility of the person living the life.

I also question the thesis that a grading system should be standardized. Why? My kids' biggest learning experiences have come from teachers who (1) rub them completely the wrong way and (2) grade in an unusual way. It's a great learning experience because you have to learn to work with someone you don't like -- and that happens all the time in lfe -- and you have to figure out how to succeed. Also an excellent skill to develop.

Madison middle schools, lamentably, have gone to standards-based testing. There is now no motivation for some students to do well. I liked working to get As -- students now are not learning how to work to get a grade, because they're graded on standards, not on learning. It will be interesting to see what happens when these students hit High School (I hope Hell will freeze over before standards-based testing infects High School here) and suddenly the standards shift, where you have to show you've learned something, not just met a standard.

Beth said...

Althouse, since you're dealing with law students, I'd hope the "sense of entitlement" has been washed out by four years of undergraduate study.

I deal largely with freshmen (I teach lots of composition, which is what instructors do) and maybe 1/3 of my courseload is with upperclassmen in literature surveys. Many of them do come in expecting a B or higher just for showing up and turning things in on time. They developed that expectation in high school, but they adjust it two or three semesters into university.

I feel confident that the grading standards are sound at the state university where I work. In contrast, when my colleague took on an evening course at one of the private universities across town, after returning his first batch of graded comp papers, he was taken aside and told that those students were very used to receiving high marks and that he should be very, very sure of his calibration before giving another C. It was, in effect, instructions to give Bs or better to these shiny young people paying $40K a year to attend this venerable institution.

I think "you pay your fee, you get your B" has been around a long time, at least for some students.

Original Mike said...

In grad school (at least in our grad school), you're forced to give out just As and Bs, because students are required to keep a B average. C is "failing". Dumb, but that's the system.

Henry said...

Beth wrote: Many of them do come in expecting a B or higher just for showing up and turning things in on time.

It's amazing how hard "showing up and turning things in on time" actually turns out to be for many people.

Showing up and turning things in on time is not such a bad standard. It will make you a success in work and life.

TreeJoe said...

MadisonMan -

Ironically, I'm very much against standardized testing...my point is that is you are going to standardize grading, and then create a reward system (college choices/scholarships/fellowships/internships/business opportunities) based upon those grades, then you should ACTUALLY standardize and understand the repercussions of people grading outside that system.

I live in a family with 4 teachers....

my wife, a K-12 Health and Phys Ed.
my brother, a special ed. teacher of the emotionally disturbed and at the all-but-dissertation level.
my brother-in-law, an honors physics high school teacher
And my sister-in-law, a kindergarten teacher

I observe the different philosophies on grading and hear the arguments. And I have to laugh at the disparity.

By the way, I do retract "ruin a life"....that was overly facetious of me.

Maybe "ruin someones chances at achieving a certain distinction for which they are striving to achieve" is more fitting.

JAL -

"The pressure is very big, and there are many qualified kids. A hundredth of a point makes some kids and parents quiver."

This is why, I think, kids need a more diverse "education" than they currently receive.

In my application for an MBA at Villanova University, my resume will be gone over in depth, my recommendations will be scrutinized, I'll be interviewed face to face by multiple people, and my GMAT scores will be checked. My transcripts will be assessed closely....including the classes in which I showed competency but got a C, and my internship at a prestigious hospital where my markings were 4.0 level.

I have no idea whether or not I'll be accepted, but at least it's far more holistic. And if I'm rejected, it might be because of my former GPA (3.22) or because they already accepted enough people from my industry and want to keep the cohort varied.

Good luck to your daughter. Sounds like she's got a good head on her shoulders.

Original Mike said...

Showing up and turning things in on time is not such a bad standard. It will make you a success in work and life.

"Eighty percent of success is showing up." Woody Allen

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I will add, that for a student who has a scholarship to keep, a smart student who shows up for class every day, reads ahead, participates, turns in all assignments complete and on time, prepares for tests, and actually likes and is interested in the study material; to give that student a "C" in a freshman-survey course that is not in the field she is majoring in, just because the professor can, sucks.

Synova said...

The thing is, that a "C" is not an acceptable grade for someone who has done a good job in the class and understands the material.

A "C" is failure.

And who's responsible for that? Who imposed that standard?

If an "A" is supposed to mean that someone went above and beyond and really set themselves apart by their scholarship, then how can the standard actually be that all students are supposed to go above and beyond or else they are failures? If that's the case, then "above and beyond" isn't "above" at all, but rather is just doing the expected coursework and getting the answers right.

It's like Office Space and Aniston's character trying to figure out just how many happy buttons she's supposed to wear on her uniform. If she does what she's told, it's not enough, so she wants to know what she's supposed to do and it turns out that she's supposed to do "more", so that is actually the standard.

Getting a "C" is not average. Getting a "C" is not doing a solid job of it. Getting an "A" is doing a solid job of it. Getting a "B" means you slacked a bit.

Students are not responsible for this.

Shanna said...

to give that student a "C" in a freshman-survey course that is not in the field she is majoring in, just because the professor can, sucks.

The only class I ever went to a professor on to try to get a grade upped was Freshman Biology for Non-Science majors. I did just fine in the class itself, but the labs killed me. I studied, but distinguishing between half the veins in a fetal pig was just really hard for me. The lab grades probably would have pulled my grade down to a D. I went to the professor and he agreed, said the labs were way too hard and upped my grade to a C (the labs were taught by a grad student).

Steve said...

"I'll talk to you about your exam, but it will be clear that nothing that is said can possibly change your grade, and my school backs me up on that with a rule."

Good for you and the university. Would you change the terms of a mortgage for someone who can't pay?

Psychedelic George said...

"Remember the Titans"

My daughter is watching that Disney football movie in school today.

Why?

To honor Black History Month.

After the annual year-end tests (which all teachers spend their time preparing kids for throughout the year), the last week or two of school, basically school is over...kids watch movies (like "Mulan") and play games.

Last week another daughter came home with this fourth-grade math question:

"It takes 2,000 years for a disposable diaper to disintegrate in a landfill. If you put four disposable diapers in a landfill, how long will it take them to disintegrate?"

Reasonable people disagree about whether disposables or cloth diapers are better for the environment, but someone somewhere has decided that every fourth-grader in the state will be taught this little bit of environmental correctness.

For some people in education it's more important that they teach kids to think their way than to teach them to think, study hard, and be responsible for and accept the consequences of their hard work or lack thereof.

The only saving grace is that children have excellent bullshit detectors.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

But Shanna, see, now for the rest of your life you are going to have to deal with the fact that you can't identify every single vein in a fetal pig. And presumably you got a degree in your non-science major, with this defect in your education. Do you not feel like a fraud?

I asked, on Erin O'Connor's blog, whether professors ask themselves exactly what they are trying to accomplish with each course, which leads to what their goals are, which leads to what success would look like. Apparently some do and some don't. It seems to me that there's a disconnect between what should have been the goals in your biology class and the standards against which your lab teacher was grading you. And probably, in most schools, there's no mechanism for the person in charge of designing the course to figure all that out and communicate it to everyone involved.

Shanna said...

"It takes 2,000 years for a disposable diaper to disintegrate in a landfill. If you put four disposable diapers in a landfill, how long will it take them to disintegrate?"

That sounds like logic, not math.

Shanna said...

But Shanna, see, now for the rest of your life you are going to have to deal with the fact that you can't identify every single vein in a fetal pig.

Yes, but the fun part is that my cousin, who has a PHD IN BIOLOGY has never had to do that.

Joe said...

My wife and I have puzzled over the sense of entitlement many kids feel. We never taught our kids that, but it's still even if more subtle than many of their peers. Part of it is personality--our oldest two are worse about than the younger two. The rest is, I believe, the grand lie openly pushed to kids that "you can do/be anything."

This is continually reinforced by removing competition from everything and ensuring that retards and the handicapped don't "feel bad". This is capped out by the moronic notion that the handicapped are just "differently abled" or whatever the hell the latest PC phrase is.

Unfortunately, federal government intervention into all aspects of education has made this thousands of times worse. In order to keep the funding rolling, schools must keep grades distorted--who cares if the kids are actually getting educated. Colleges want to get good ratings, so they can make more money to pay their overpaid professors with their cushy jobs (and please don't say they aren't--being a college professor is the easiest fucking job in the world) so they can, in turn, rip off students with the lie that a college education is even remotely helpful for most careers.

I haven't even gotten to the distorting effects of discrimination in the form of affirmative action.

Ironically, the housing bailout bill is just one more step in this idiocy. Losers who bought homes they knew they couldn't afford are going to get bailed out. Those of us who worked hard, saved and lived within our budgets get to pay for those fuckers to keep living in their oversized houses that they still can't afford.

Pogo said...

Shanna,

I had a grad student who was supposed to prepare the compounds we were testing in an Industrial Chemistry class to a precision of thousandths of a gram or smaller.

We were to be graded on our accuracy in determining the presence of this or that chemical.

Turns out that, because he thought it was funny, he did some of the compounds totally at random, so it would be impossible to get it right. ("Random" is being kind, we suspected he was targeting a few hapless students.)

At my school, failing lab meant "No Med school for you, sonny." A BIG DEAL.

My pending F for the lab prompted me to go begging to the teacher. Showed him my detailed analysis and -thank God- I had actually saved a portion of one of the compounds and ran the test again under his eye and got exactly the same test result.

Bewildered, he confronted the grad student, who admitted his sloppiness, and several grades were revised.

Said grad student never mentioned having sex in the back room during lab with a co-ed, but I didn't want to press my luck.

"No argument" grades are good only if the prof is honorable, like Althouse.

Pogo said...

Did I mention a fellow student who took the time to kill all of the tadpoles in our college science lab, because he thought that meant we'd fail the lab and that meant less competition for med school?

No?

He's a surgeon now.

Henry said...

"It takes 2,000 years for a disposable diaper to disintegrate in a landfill. If you put four disposable diapers in a landfill, how long will it take them to disintegrate?"

I sure hope the answer was 2,000 years.

Original Mike said...

being a college professor is the easiest fucking job in the world

Thanks for that penetrating insight.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Shanna said...
"'It takes 2,000 years for a disposable diaper to disintegrate in a landfill. If you put four disposable diapers in a landfill, how long will it take them to disintegrate?'

That sounds like logic, not math."

It sounds like bad science to me. Disposable diapers have not been around for 2000 years. We don't know what they'll do in landfills. Landfills, due to the EVOLUTION (remember that?) of microbial species that break down waste - and they evolve fast b/c generations are short - won't have the same characteristics in 2000 years that they have now, and we don't have a clue what those characteristics will be. So it's a stupid statement on its face, and yes, there are fourth-graders who will figure that out too and will roll their eyes when conservationism is talked about from now on. Counterproductive.

Big Mike said...

Henry, you beat me to it. That's what I get for participating in impromptu hallway meetings.

Original Mike even when I was a lowly, slime-sucking GTA I made it a point to decide ahead of time where to give partial credit and how much. I also took off points for handing assignments in late, leaving it to the student to decide how much more effort to put in. After a while it became pretty easy to figure out where to give partial credit, but right from the start I thought that if I was demanding work from the students then I owed them an honest effort on my own part (and I'm not saying that you aren't giving an honest effort, but an awful lot of professors effectively retire after they get tenure).

Shanna said...

I sure hope the answer was 2,000 years.

That was my thought. And if that was the answer, how is that Math? Aside from any concerns about the scientific validity of the statement.

Big Mike said...

I might add that today I work in industry and the most important part of my own evaluation and the evaluations I give staff is productivity. That means results, not merely effort.

MadisonMan said...

What if the diapers are wrapped around each other?

Original Mike said...

And the poop. Don't forget the poop.

MadisonMan said...

Excellent point. Are the diapers clean or dirty, and is the dirt urine or feces? Breastfed babies or bottlefed?

Too many variables. Poorly posed questions. Fail.

Pogo said...

Rita: He likes animals and children and he'll change poopy diapers.

Phil Connors: Does he have to use the word 'poopy'?

Original Mike said...

even when I was a lowly, slime-sucking GTA I made it a point to decide ahead of time where to give partial credit and how much.

Fine, but the objectivity quickly breaks down because working out problems requires several steps. Once you make an error, it gets subjective applying a predetermined scale to the downstream work. This can be ameliorated to some degree by carefully designing the question, but that gets back to anticipating the different ways students will go astray. I have found the student’s imagination far out stripes this professor's ability to anticipate all of the ways you can get stuff wrong.

Marcia said...

My favorite story about a failed attempt at grade change:

My father-in-law taught college classes (in accounting, so no politically-based grading).

He gave one particular student an F. The student came to him arguing for a grade change and said, "I don't think it's fair that I got an F."

My father-in-law did not miss a beat, answering, "I don't think it's fair either, but that's the lowest grade I can give you."

Kurt said...

Two thoughts about the professor who said a "C" was the starting grade:
1). When I used to teach writing, I didn't tell my students that, but I did approach the business of grading papers with certain basic standards in mind. Students whose papers met certain basic standards in all of the criteria outlined in the course syllabus would earn something close to the mean grade for the class; students whose papers met higher standards in all of the criteria would earn a higher grade. Students whose papers failed to meet those basic standards would earn a lower grade. The idea was that there were certain things a student had to learn at minimum from the class, and a student who accomplished only that much earned an average grade. A student who displayed a higher level of skill in his or her writing or complexity (and dare I use the word "nuance") in his or her thought or argumentation earned a higher grade. (At the first institution where I taught, I tried to center the median point at around a B-; at the next institution--a less selective private college, I centered the median at around a C+ my first semester, but later adjusted it upward to about a B- to be more in line with the grading practices of the colleagues in my department--though I was still the hardest grader.)
2). When I was an undergraduate at a Northeastern college, all of introductory science and math classes were graded on a curve. I don't know if the curve was centered at a C or if it was centered higher than that, but the fact is that as someone remarked already, everyone at that institution had been A students in high school, but that was pretty normal, and so a higher standard of expectation applied.

JAL said...

The only saving grace is that children have excellent bullshit detectors.

Well, based on some kids' letters one of the talk radio guys read the other day, I don't know.

Total pap. Afraid we're raising eco-cops.

As for the diaper argument -- shheesh. The most recent thing I saw discussed how much more expensive washing cloth diapers was. I don't care.

(I've used both, and when living in a developing country, washed one of my kids' with a hand plunger in less than boiling water. Hung them out in the snow. And walked the kids to school in the snow uphill both ways. ;-) )

Just waiting for the eco-nannies who indoctrinate our kids to discover how much mercury they are releasing into babies nurseries when a CFL breaks....

Big Mike said...

Original, you're perfectly correct, of course. But in my experience most mistakes can be anticipated and planned for. The few students who were creatively mistaken could be handled case by case as honestly as I could handle them. I gave up being perfect for Lent some number of years ago, and I liked it so much I never went back.

Again, it helps that I taught in a technical field. I never had to worry that I was actually the one who was mistaken. :-D

Big Mike said...

JAL, sounds like my upbringing, except I had to walk to school uphill both ways through the snow even in summer. I was wearing diapers at the time because they had me doing 7th grade algebra as a one-year-old.

No, now that I think of it I couldn't have been wearing diapers because I was born potty-trained.

And if you believe all that I've got some property in Arizona that will be ocean-front just as soon as the sea finishes rising. I'm upside down on the mortgage so I can let you have it very cheap.

hdhouse said...

i went to a large central michigan high school. we graduated about 650 students. no SAT prep classes, no nothing. No retakes. Just one shot at it.

test prep merely means you get good at taking one test...something like no child left behind...

now i own a business that hires a few college grads every year...they are bright and nice but my business doesn't care anything about their ability to take a test...we want someone who can write and do math and can hold a conversation.

test preps are for whimps.

traditionalguy said...

Reality check for Professors who cannot see the forest for the trees:(1)The intelligence of the students admitted to the college determines how well they will do after graduation.(2) The material in each course is designed by the Professor and when the students have learned that material by testing well and turning in work, and met class presence minimums,then the grade is an A. (3) To withhold an A because you are a big Bad Ass feared the world over is your own mental illness that needs treatment. (4)Yes, punishing innocent, good students under your authority is True Power. So a class in survival skills under Tyranny may be the only lesson you are able to teach.

John Lynch said...

There's often a lot of pressure from administrators for professors to change their grading. A prof that fails too many students often is not around very long.

As a student, I rapidly figured out which classes were bullshit, where anything could be turned in for an A. And then I found out which ones took actual work (a third and very rare category was classes where I actually learned things that were important)

I prioritized the hard classes, while spending as little time as possible on the easy ones. If I could skip a time-consuming but trivial assignment, I would. I did this many times while still getting an A.

I am amazed at the teachers who are shocked that their students economize their time and effort, just like anyone else. Who's really entitled here? Students for not wasting their time, or teachers who feel we should hang on their every word even if it isn't on the test?

Balfegor said...

If a student performs to expectation and does all required work (i.e. learns the curriculum), they should earn a grade representative of meeting that standard.

The student likely to make this kind of argument is probably not someone for whom doing "all required work" has actually led to "learn[ing] the curriculum."

Just as an example, we had, above,the hypothetical contrast between the C-grade 25-page paper and the A-grade 100-page paper. For many people in my generation, the important thing is not demonstrating understanding or exploring the subject in the paper, it's 25 pages. And the thought is, well, if I spent all this time, and I churned out 25 pages, precisely as asked for, I ought to get an A. And this is lunatic.

Even if you do all the homework and attend all the classes, there's no guarantee that you'll do well. You can complete the homework religiously and get every problem consistently wrong. And you can attend every class without understanding what is being taught. You can type out a 25-page 12-pt doublespaced paper without it actually being any good, particularly if all you're concerned about is fulfilling the technical requirements outlined by the instructor.

This isn't enough. It shouldn't earn you an A, and, even today, it often doesn't. But the people who go through this rigmarole -- the motions of study, without actual learning -- are still going to complain. They did, after all, invest enormous time and effort, even if their efforts met with no success.

wayne fontes said...

Stuart Rojstaczer has been doing a series of posts on grade inflation which is now on it's ninth installment. The first installment is here.

Original Mike said...

I am amazed at the teachers who are shocked that their students economize their time and effort

That would be one really dumb teacher.

Revenant said...

I'm sure part of this is a sense of entitlement.

But here's a thought experiment for you: imagine if your boss said that this year's salary increases would be partly based on your ability to do an interpretive dance. You do an interpretive dance to the best of your ability. He gives you a 2 out of 5, and your salary increase ends up not being what you hoped for.

"But", you might say, "interpretive dance has nothing to do with my job. Why should my career be dependent on it?" Well, for the same reason the college career of a Physics major should be dependent on his ability to master a required Literature course. That is to say, for no reason at all, so far as the most people are concerned.

The problem here is that most colleges and universities still have this whole "it is our job to turn out well-rounded individuals and blah blah blah" attitude. That is NOT what most people are in college for. Colleges are trade schools for the world of white collar jobs -- that's what 90% of the folks in them are there for. They are not there to become educated Renaissance men like their 18th and 19th century forebears.

In my opinion, colleges should not offer any grades at all, other than pass/fail, for out-of-major courses. That would clear up a lot of these problems. So long as they plan to throw up meaningless hoops for students to jump through they shouldn't be surprised if students expect full credit for the effort made.

blake said...

I see my problem in school now. Indifference to high grades.

I was completely indifferent to grades, period. It seemed to work in my favor. (Does anything improve by worry?)

blake said...

I, too, am intrigued by P. George's diaper puzzle: What was the answer? I mean, I'd say "2,000 years" because there's nothing to make the diapers disintegrate serially. Was it supposed to be 8,000 years?

(Yes, it's all ludicrous but, you know, how ludicrous was it?)

blake said...

Pogo--

Great story. And you have to give the teacher credit for giving you an honest grade.

Relating to that and Big Mike's tales of comp sci: I was a music major. I didn't study computers in college because I'd already been programming for years and years. (And it was risible to listen to those guys talk about how hard it was to write a 100-line program for a final when I wrote hundreds of lines for fun & profit every morning.)

But music requires concrete performance as well: Hitting the right note, or transcribing the right notes that you hear. And in a choir I was in, there was a guy who was a comp sci major who had perfect pitch. He was probably more talented as a musician and I more talented as a programmer.

But what's the point of going to school to learn how to do something you already know how to do?

As far as Original Mike's apportionment issue: In the most sane approach I ever saw, the community college I went to wouldn't let you pass without an "A". In other words, you had to do the work/acquire the skill perfectly before you could go to the next level.

That, to me, would make sense in many (if not most) cases: You take the class till you get an "A". If it's worth knowing, it's worth knowing well, right?

Although I had one history prof who declared that they were preparing us for "cocktail party conversation". He was a bit easier than the one who was a hard-core medieval music expert who wanted you to be able to read the manuscript and memorize the offices of the Catholic Church, etc.

So, maybe the real problem for the teachers is they don't agree. What does an "A" mean versus a "C"? What are they supposed to be teaching?

If they don't know, how can the students?

Salamandyr said...

Balfegor, I believe you missed the point of my example. My point was not that someone who churns out the "required" 25 pages should get an A, but that, if the Professor tells the class that the coursework requires the completion of a 25 page paper showing mastery of the subject, then a 25 page paper that shows mastery of the subject should merit an A. If the Professor really wants a 100 page paper that shows the student has not just mastered what the Professor taught but included new insights that he can steal to use in his next book, to prove to him the student has mastered the subject, then he should just be honest and tell the students that's the standard.

The purpose of a grade is not supposed to be some kind of display of the personal brilliance of a student. It's supposed to be an indicator of how well you mastered the material being taught in that class. If a professor believes that the goals he sets don't sufficiently test students, then he should raise the standards.

Balfegor said...

If the Professor really wants a 100 page paper that shows the student has not just mastered what the Professor taught but included new insights that he can steal to use in his next book, to prove to him the student has mastered the subject, then he should just be honest and tell the students that's the standard.

I see the point. I just don't think it's at all relevant to the phenomenon under discussion. It's been a few years since I was a college student, I suppose, but I never encountered a professor who had secret or hidden requirements in order to get an A. I did encounter some students who thought their effort ought to earn them an A, since they did, after all, work hard and fulfill all the concrete class requirements -- just not well.

Pogo said...

My favorite grader in college was another art teacher who said he would grade on attendance only. So many missed classes for A, then B, then C, etc.

Oddly, the grade distribution at term's end was no different than any other class: lots of Cs, some Bs, a few As.

I thought why is someone paying thousands of dollars a year to come her and skipping class? That make-a no sense to me.

Richard said...

I'll talk to you about your exam, but it will be clear that nothing that is said can possibly change your grade, and my school backs me up on that with a rule.

Ah, infallible. I see now.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

My daughter had to take a class in composition last year, along with all the other juniors. The first assignment was to write an essay about anything the student chose. There is a book my daughter loves: it's Bury Him Among Kings, by the author of Flight of the Phoenix It's a novel of WWI and is kind of like the poetry of Wilfred Owen. There's even a WO-like character in the book.

Anyway, she chose to write about the development of a character in the novel; Vic, for those of you who may have read it. She received a "C" on her essay, with marks off for her comment placement, and the comment that the essay was the worst book report ever, or something to that effect.

My daughter went back to the teacher and expressed to him that the essay was not a book report, but a discussion of the character in the book and his maturation and so forth. He took it back, said "Oh I see that now," reread it, and bumped it up to a "B". Still that comma placement.

I would stake my life on my daughter's comma placement. She said once, during middle school, "Commas: you get 'em or you don't." And she always has. So I asked what style manual they were supposed to use. It was the Little, Brown Handbook and it agreed with her about where her commas were supposed to go.

Some of my daughter's classmates were having the same issues with this teacher, so I told her that she owed it to herself, to them, and to all the students who came after her, to go back to him with her work and point out that her comma placement was consistent with that style manual.

So my girl and her classmates started going back to him with their Little, Brown Handbook and showing how their comma placement was correct. He caved, as he should have. She started getting "A" on all of her papers, and I suppose her classmates were too. She thought after a while that he wasn't even reading her stuff anymore.

I suppose a person could read that as a sense of entitlement, if he wanted to.

Henry said...

Pogo wrote: My favorite grader in college was another art teacher who said he would grade on attendance only. So many missed classes for A, then B, then C, etc.

That could be me. When I taught drawing 101 as a grad student I guaranteed a B for anyone who just showed up and handed things in on time. Admittedly, just showing up was pretty important since it was a studio class and met for twice the hours a week as the academic classes.

To get an A a kid had to just show up and produce superior work. Anything below a B derived from lack of effort. Nevertheless, many students achieved that low standard.

Skyler said...

My law school has a very strict curve. In almost every class only 2 or three people are allowed to get an A. A slightly larger amount get A-'s and B's. Almost everyone else gets B-'s and lower.

I read about those "smart" people at Harvard that almost always get an A and who feel contempt towards anyone who gets an A-.

And then there's Yale Law where they don't even give out grades. I guess just showing up is good enough.

Strange that our school has so few A's, yet our bar passage rate is about the same as the big name schools in our state.

And we wonder why our grads don't get snapped up by big firms. I wonder if we changed nothing but the curve, how that would affect student marketability.

It's annoying, but I can honestly say that the people who get the A's are not gaming anything. They are working hard, they are smart, they know their stuff cold. They deserve that A.

Skyler said...

"I thought why is someone paying thousands of dollars a year to come her and skipping class?"

Because some professors are worthless as teachers, and after all, there is no effective method of measuring performance of professors. I have one now that I had for my 1L property classes who is as sweet and nice as can be and certainly knows her material. But she can't complete a sentence without getting sidetracked. I long ago decided that I will just buy some books to study on my own, and do Cali on line during class.

If I could skip a class I wouldn't even bother to show up, but my school is very strict about attendance. If you miss two classes, your grade is lowered. It's probably not a coincidence that the least effective teachers are the ones who are strictest at enforcing this rule.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Dang, Ann. Why don't you show some random interesting posts?

commenter said...

I had a teacher in junior college (please stop laughing) who was very strict about attendance. Not only that, in class discussion we had to comment on other students work. It was like working in a straight jacket.

Needless to say, I blew my top and got removed from class because i was a behaviour problem. Thing was I continued to do the work because i paid for the dang class and I wanted the feedback at the end of the class where oral presentation were given and juried by professionals outside of the academic area.

Do you have such things in law school: oral tests with community commitment to evaluation? Or is that just for junior college level people?

Tex said...

Starting in elementary school, parents get hooked into doing internet research and constructing elaborate book report dioramas to garner good grades for their kids.

In middle school, kids get As for math class journal entries about how they feel about fractions.

In high school, student essays about the evils of white male oppression are tearfully lauded by teachers, never mind that the grammar used would make any English teacher of 40 years ago cringe.

Oh yeah, this sense of entitlement is all about "parental pressure" and a self-imposed sense of "achievement anxiety". It's NEVER about the schools.

The truest line in that article, IMHO, is this: "I think it stems from their K-12 experience." Ya think?

JAL said...

Hey Laursaxyl --

Thanks so much for the book recommend -- Bury Him Among Kings. My husband and I read The Flight of the Phoenix aloud to each other many years ago (we were overseas with no TV). Really, really enjoyed it.

We will check the Kings book out.

Random this is.

mcg said...

If I could skip a class I wouldn't even bother to show up, but my school is very strict about attendance.

Skyler, what school is this? I'm not familiar with one that has a school-wide policy on attendance. I'd guess Naval Postgraduate but you're studying law, right?

Anyway, I have made it quite clear to my students that attendance is not mandatory, nor is paying attention when they do attend. It's their business how they learn, and I am there in service of that, not my own ego. As long as they don't disrupt those that are interested in listening, they can do homework, surf the web, whatever.

One day a student came into my classroom before anyone else. He wasn't actually in my class and was looking for a place to eat lunch. Once he realized I was preparing to teach he started to leave, but I told him he could stay if he wanted. He finished his lunch quietly and walked out in the middle of lecture. No harm. He might have actually learned something, who knows :)

Having said that I would like to *think* I'm a decent lecturer, and I do have pretty much full attendance. I also shared with my students my belief about the most efficient way to absorb the material: read the text lightly ahead of time, listen to the lectures with minimal note taking, and then read the text lightly again.

But honestly they wouldn't be in my class if they weren't already skilled students. So I've left them to their own devices.

Big Mike said...

I always felt that including attendance in the grading -- even requiring attendance was a huge mistake. If the students could get an A or B without the material I was presenting in class then either I was not doing the job I was being paid to do or they were really, really bright. And I did my level best to do my job.

Skyler said...

I go to St. Mary's in San Antonio. It's a respectable school, mostly known only in Texas. Most of the professors are good, but there's always a few bad apples.

commenter said...

know what I love about the evils of white argument?

it is that it is all the wrong approach to visuals in my mind. Let's not talk about color opposites, but instead color space. Now unless you suffer or enjoy the very rare condition of monochomacy, total color blindless, there is no black and white and that division of skin color is absurd.

See i see dark magenta brown people and light rosy pink people in one race with there cute perfect noses and various other similarities. What varies is their values. So maybe black and white are really brothers and the opposite are the mideastern to middle asian complements.

On the other hand of that iPhoto slider or LAB color tint scale is greeness or oliveness as a race. These people usually have those long noses and rather bony bridges. I know my kids were all born in a clear rosy hospital came out of my womb influenced by my genes during that nine months. The doctors all looked and immediately wanted a test for jaundice because they were so yellow brown tinted, or olive. Not a trace of the illness, they were just a different skin color to the usual cute cheeks comin out of that hospital.

That's my color space rant for the day. It's no wonder i was some how drawn to the color temperature used as the default on this machine. Wow, what a revelation, those shiny refective GD screens really do just shoe the true colors of your face.

is this going to be graded?

Laura(southernxyl) said...

JAL - it is a cool book. If you find it and read it, let me know.

Kev said...

But what's the point of going to school to learn how to do something you already know how to do?

I suppose the answer could be "to do it even better," or perhaps "to make connections and meet potential collaborators in the field." And if you want to teach that "something," you might need a sheepskin or two to do so.

Although I had one history prof who declared that they were preparing us for "cocktail party conversation". He was a bit easier than the one who was a hard-core medieval music expert who wanted you to be able to read the manuscript and memorize the offices of the Catholic Church, etc.

Ha--that brought on an unpleasant flashback from undergrad school. I couldn't stand Medieval/Renaissance music history class, partially for the above reason (I always thought a section of the class for non-Catholics would have been nice), and partially because the prof was one of the adversarial types of (non-)teachers who would have been far happier just being paid to sit in her assigned carrel on the fourth floor of the library and do research all day.

I thought why is someone paying thousands of dollars a year to come her and skipping class? That make-a no sense to me.

Even more senseless is the student who stops showing up to class and doesn't drop before the drop date (which is quite late in the semester at my school). I have no choice but to fail them; I'm required to give a performance-based grade, and my classes (mostly music ensembles) are almost totally graded on attendance, for obvious reasons.

cyberzealot said...

Gosh, this is great. This is like getting a chance to see what heaven might be like. The USA is so extraordinary. First world issues. First world problems.
A literate society, with real universities, real freedom of speech.

And of course your blog, which gives me hope, which is no mean feat.

Entitlement where I live has become a weapon.

Our once great institutions of learning have become alternatively bloody battlegrounds or ridiculous theme park rides that pander to our revolution.

I say this with great respect, and even envy:

"Entitlement is a terrible, dark and destructive force. It leads to bloodshed, and revolution, and it absolves its protagonists."

Here in South Africa, we pray, every day, that one day, many years from now, we will be able to frame our debate about entitlement in your terms.

I wonder, sometimes, what you, in the epi-centre of civilization would think of mobs of armed, rioting students who hold academics at gun point over issues like actually having pay for education or alternatively demanding degrees because they simply paid their fees, never mind even attending classes.

Here, in our rainbow nation, entitlement rules, and you know why, because we did not do what you suggested in your post.

If you want to see what entitlement can do, come over here, and bring your bullet proof vest.

commenter said...

wow, i did the paperwork to drop my class where i became a problem, had my advisor professor sign things and tell me he would take care of turning in the paper work to drop my classes and he didn't. They failed me.

SO what to do?

I couldn't control myself in the limits set in the class

I paid my dues.

I was told to leave if i couldn't control myself.

I knew i couldn't.

I dropped the class as to not disturb the other students who wanted (?) to learn.

I did the work anyway.

I was good at what I did.

I never went on in the field of graphic design or 3d design to be emploeyed, which is sad because I am damn good at visual communications. It is also quite alright because i still do it for my own well being and to help other people who don't see things like I do, but would like to. Even being unemployed and living below poverty level, I still deep on with the keeping on for some stupid reason.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"I couldn't control myself in the limits set in the class."

There's a reason why the bachelor's degree is a BS (and then there's MS, More S, and PhD, Piled higher and Deeper). Getting a diploma signals to the world that you can tolerate a certain amount of crap, and control yourself in the process. Please do not imagine that those of us who were able to do that, do not find it to be a useful ability. I am on the management team at the chemical plant where I work. It is a frequent task I have, determining when to tolerate the BS and when not to, but I have to be able to control myself through some unbelievable crap.

Sadly, that is an unavoidable fact of life on planet Earth. I heartily congratulate any adult who has not found it to be so.

commenter said...

Sadly, that is an unavoidable fact of life on planet Earth. I heartily congratulate any adult who has not found it to be so.

I am not very good at these wordy game plays, and i do not understand the ambiguity in what you are saying here. This reminds me of lawyer speak. I know, this is a lawyer blog. Could you please put this in simple sentences for me to understand and to get rid of the tricky logic involved?

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I am not a lawyer either. Sorry if I was needlessly obscure.

You said this:

"I had a teacher in junior college (please stop laughing) who was very strict about attendance. Not only that, in class discussion we had to comment on other students work. It was like working in a straight jacket."

Every job I've had has been such that, if I could not have controlled myself in the environment you describe, I would have been out on my ear. And that's the case with everyone I know who's talked about their jobs. If you have found a way to exist without having to show up somewhere on a schedule, tolerate tedious or stupid stuff, and control yourself, good for you. I mean that sincerely.