Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Maybe this has already made the rounds of academic bloggers, but I just happened upon this article about grades in the Washington Post (via Phantom Prof). Georgia Tech students can be bad, but they are not that bad. In part, the problem is Georgia's Hope Scholarships based on GPAs. It also doesn't help that Tech students regularly make Fs, Ds, and Cs in their "hard" classes, like CS or Physics, and feel that they should get an "easy A" in something like International Affairs.
My strategy for avoiding grade changes? I recommend the following:
1. Have an incredibly detailed syllabus with percentage values for every assignment.
2. Grade all exams and assignments by student ID number (not name), so students can't claim ideological prejudice. (We in Liberal Arts had a nasty scare with Horowitz inspired mayhem last year.)
3. When using participation grades, document attendance, make obvious notes when students talk in class (so they know you're paying attention), and include participation via WebCT discussion board posts (for shy kids). (Students turn in printed copies of their WebCT posts at the end of term to facilitate my grading.)
4. Show students that attendance matters. After the midterm or first paper, I show students a scatterplot and regression estimate for the effects of attendance, class year, and major/non-major on the first assignment grade. Since the assignment is graded anonymously, they can't claim grading bias. And, then I show them that independent of the participation grade, attendance has a positive and significant effect (both statistically and substantively) on their grades. Usually, the difference between attendance and non-attendance is more than a letter grade.
5. When all else fails, hide at the end of the semester. I must admit: I post grades at the last minute or in the middle of the night at the same time that I release complete WebCT grades for the final exam. Then, I hide. And don't answer emails for at least a week. Most of those knee-jerk email complaints go away. [Edited to add:] I tell students via email to come see me during office hours the following semester to discuss. I don't waste my time rehashing grades via email, when most students just send a quick email in a panic. Most students don't come the following semester because once they calm down, they realize they earned the grade they received. [End addition] Students that do follow-up seldom have any excuse since grades are calculated anonymously.
And you'd be surprised by your students' performance if you begin to grade anonymously. Sometimes, when I go put names on papers, I'm surprised by how well or how poorly some students perform. Of course, this is easier if you have a TA to help with the paperwork.
posted by Michelle @ 9:39 PM,