Saturday, February 21, 2009

Making the grade: click here.


Jorge said...

This is interesting because I've always thought schools should go back to giving a lot of C's. A C isn't bad. It just means you've done the work and passed the course. A B means you've gone past what's required. An A means you've far surpassed the expectations of the course.
Now, I was raised in a system where the B was the average. I got a lot of B's in grade school and the beginning of high school (up until I stopped caring and my grades dropped). Then I went to college and promptly failed out. However, when I went back the following year (after some serious begging and a computer glitch in my favor) I took a class that completely changed my view of school.
It was a world religions class. The teacher taught me two things that completely changed my view of school.
1) Never sell your books back--they're like family and they're worth more to you than the ten bucks you'd get back from the book store.
2) Don't pay attention to grades. You're here to learn, not to get a grade or even a degree. If your goal is to leave school with a piece of paper, go to Office Max where you can get a ream of paper for $30. That's a hell of a lot cheaper than college.

Since then, I stopped caring about grades. I did the work for the class and did the reading and put in the effort, etc. But, more importantly, I wanted to learn. That was my first goal. The other stuff I just did because I had to.
My grades instantly shot up. I don't know how much of that grade increase had to do with me wanting to learn and how much had to do with the fact that I actually attended classes and did the work starting that second year but I like to think that it was more the fact that I wanted to be there.

So many students now look at school as just something they have to do. And, sadly, it is. The Bachelors degree is today what the high school degree was years ago.

Back to grades: I find it odd that students believe they deserve an A just for being there putting in 'effort.' What is their definition of effort? I know all of my students would tell me they put in effort but I know that a small minority of them actually put in more than the required effort to complete the class.

I think some of this also has to do with certain programs requiring a X.XX GPA. Nursing, for example. They need what, an A in English 101? OK, fine. But they should have to really earn that A. When you tell a nursing student that, though, they'll tell you some sob story about how their nursing classes are so hard and they just don't have time to do the work for your Engl 101 class (but they put in effort!).
So much is expected of students. What's the average course load? Five classes? That's a lot, if you think about it. I know they took that many in high school, but they also had the class every day. And in high school they probably didn't have to have a job.

On the other side of the table, though, I grade way too easy. I feel bad giving a paper a C when they've done everything I've asked. But that's because I'm a product of the system.

So, ultimately, I think it's a self sustaining problem from both sides of the table. Students expect it because teachers and institutions give it. Teachers and institutions give it because students need it (and they need the students to support the school).

On the effort issue: I don't want a doctor to perform heart surgery on me if he only put in the effort but still just couldn't quite get it. I can put in a lot of effort to learn astro physics. Odds are I'll never understand it. But dammit, I put in the effort.


This comment is horribly unorganized. I apologize. But I did put in a lot of effort so I think I deserve at least a B+ on it.

Diana said...

Well, you have to wonder, too, how much of the grade inflation has to do with the self-esteem movement. My son received a ribbon for an elementary school science fair project he did. His project wasn't very good--last minute, sloppy, half-assed, thrown together--but he still got a ribbon. Because he "participated." Because he "tried."

So he got recognized and rewarded for mediocrity. Pretty ridiculous, huh?

Jorge said...

What ever happened to survival of the fittest?

Jorge said...

I see the point of the self esteem movement, but I think it's really ruining education. Not every one can be a genius. I know I'm not and I'm ok with that. It makes kids look for what they're good at rather than settling for a business degree because that's what's is the "smart" thing to do.

Er ist glaubhaft said...

Self-esteem is a word that we ought banish. Isn't esteem something one earns from colleauges and peers in a field or discipline?