Bloggin' 'bout science and life

Tag: grades

Tell Us About Your Grading Practices & How You Set Grading Standards In Your Class

I would like to invite you to join in our conversation, by posting a comment below about how you set grading standards in your class, and what you expect a student to do to meet each of those standards.  The primary focus of our proposal to increase academic rigor in Dartmouth courses is to hold faculty accountable for the standards to which they hold students.  By this we mean, what would a student have to do in your class to get each of the letter grades in the Dartmouth Scholarship Ratings.  These standards will then be used in their promotion, tenure and merit raise evaluations, along with the grade distributions they actually give to students.  In this way, faculty are held accountable for the rigor of their courses.

A very large part of our motivation is to simply spark the discussion of what do grades mean and how do you define them.  We want people to think very seriously about questions like: What techniques (e.g., exams, papers, discussion, projects) do you use to evaluate students and what goes into judging their performance in these various techniques?  What would a student have to do to fail your class, what would a student have to do to get a D or C or B or A in your class?  If you work at another school (high school, vocational school, college, university), what grading system does your institution use, and how does this factor into grading decisions?



Do Students Care About Their Education Anymore?

Yesterday, we had our third student drop our class Seeing Nature: How Aristotle and Darwin Understood Nature and Human Society because the student was on track to get a B in the class.  Let that soak in for a minute – dropping a class because they were going to get a B.  This has become routine.

In this class, we ask students to write two paragraphs about the readings on Monday, two paragraphs about the readings on Wednesday, and a six paragraph synthesis essay about a topic they choose from among a set of possible questions on Friday.  We began with 35 students the first day, and 13 found this too much to handle.  As a consequence, we were down to 22 last week.  That means 13% (3/22) of our class dropped because their grade might be a B.


More On What Exams Are For

We just finished up another term of classes and are now starting the next term. This morning I got my student evaluations from last term’s classes. Student commentary on most aspects of a course are typically very thoughtful. Criticism can be harsh, but most students do it with a spirit helpfulness and construction. However, I always find comments about the exams in a class to be the most incongruous.

The most common comments from students are (1) the exams are too long, and (2) the exams didn’t cover a lot of the material we covered in class. Frequently, students will make both these points within the same sentence.  First of all, these students don’t realize the contradiction inherent in this compound complaint.  If you want me to ask about everything we covered in class, the exams will have to be considerably longer.  However, I think both, and particularly the second complaint reflects a lack of understanding about their own educational goals and what one can expect for their education.


Nobody can give you an education

Nobody can give you an education; you have to take it.

I just finished another term of teaching. Most students are outstanding to work with. They are intellectually engaged, they are inquisitive, and they demand more from you as an instructor. These characteristics are true of students across the grade spectrum. In fact, students who are struggling but who are clearly fighting for their education because they want to learn are, in many ways, the most satisfying students to work with.


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