Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The value of being clear


Recently I was reading an article on Inside Higher Ed titled the dreaded grade appeal. Before I read it I thought to myself "here we go again! more faculty complaining about students appealing their grades!" I was pleasantly surprised to see that the article isn't really about grade appeals, but rather (if you read it clearly), about being clear in your expectation of the students taking your class.

I think that this is a great post to read (despite the comments who seem to have missed the point of clarity) because it gives examples of things to do to be clear (and empathetic) and thus prevent conflicts with your students.

In all of my years in Higher Education (around 200 or so credits at the time of this writing), I have only tried to appeal a grade once (which the university administration deflected, but anyway, one B isn't bad). Thinking back to that experience the instructor (an adjunct) did almost everything wrong - the opposite of what this article recommends.

She used attendance as a stick, rather than a carrot - I only had one absence, but she had me down as three, and no way to prove that I was there because it was near the beginning of the semester and apparently I missed the circulating sign up sheet. (as a side note - this is funny because she was out for two weeks for conferences and had one of her buddies evaluate our presentations!) Her grading criteria were not clear for assignments and presentations, and even though my in class contributions (and presentations) were superior to some of the people that got an A, I still got a B.

Years later, now that I am in two education programs (this particular instructor had a Juris Doctor and was a full time lawyer), the importance of rubrics, clear syllabi and expectations do make a difference. Even though it's been years since this incident and I am over it, I think that this is a great example of what not to do - a case analysis for new instructors ;-)

What do you think?
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