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Saturday, August 23, 2008

give her a break

Before we become too incensed, I encourage the reading of all documents carefully.
The Senate minutes for 22 April (under the leadership of last year's executive) state, among other things:


The Core Curriculum Committee is recommending a hybrid of this mid-term grade, and early alert grade, and what we are recommending is that for the academic year 2008/09 we initiate a pilot project and invite faculty teaching general education courses to participate. What this would entail is between weeks 4 and 7 the Registrar’s Office would open up the grading system. Faculty teaching gen ed courses would be encouraged to give students who are earning a C+ or lower mid-term grades.


Senator Thompson-Casado: Are you envisioning this for summer courses as well or just Fall semester courses?

Marcia King-Blandford: We just talked about the new academic year.


Chair Floyd: We need to take a vote on whether to take the committee’s recommendation. The motion is to accept the committee’s report and forward this as a project next year. All those in favor please say “aye”. All those opposed, “nay”. The report has been accepted.


Therefore, it would appear that the Senate recommendation for midterm grading starts this fall with letter grades. In addition, it is entirely voluntary.

Now, quoting from the Provost's memo of 2008.08.21:


On April 22, 2008, the Main Campus Faculty Senate accepted a recommendation from the Faculty Senate Curriculum Committee to encourage faculty who are teaching general education courses to assign a midterm grade to those students who are earning a C+ or lower. We know that each of you is committed to the success of your students, especially those first-year undergraduate students whose first semester is a critical time of transition. We are inviting you, therefore, to help us provide a safety net for these students not only by participating in the Faculty Senate recommended midterm grading project, but also by providing midterm grades to all first-year students in all classes.


Midterm grades can be posted between the 4th and 7th week of classes through the Web portal using the self-service for faculty. Self-service grading will open on September 15 and close on October 13. Midterm grades will not show on a student’s academic transcript or become part of their permanent academic record.


That sounds like an invitation to me, not a demand or a requirement. The language is essentially the same as that of the Senate.

We can argue endlessly about whether the Senate action is a resolution or merely an acceptance of a report. It does not matter. The Provost has acted upon a faculty recommendation. That sounds like a refreshing case of faculty governance to me.

We may not approve of the Provost's handling of the dean affair. However, we cannot let that carry over into other policy. Yes, it would have been better if her memo came out earlier. So what. It is voluntary. Besides, I am sure that most faculty will agree with me that final grades (+/- a letter grade) for 90% of our students can be determined within 2 weeks of class activity, given no intervention. Gadzooks! it is not a formal grade! Estimations are OK! There is no need to change syllabi- just tell the students that you are or are not participating in this exercise. Again, quoting from the Provost's memo:


Students should be informed on the syllabus or in another form of writing that midterm grades will be assigned for first-year students who are receiving a C+ or less in a class.


The memo says should, not must.

And finally, we will have many battles ahead, concerning the outcome of the Learning Alliance report, future faculty lines and other resources, more important curricular issues, etc, etc. If we stupidly fight the provost on this one, we REALLY lose our credibility.

Please attend Faculty Senate meetings and voice your concern there. That is where this suggestion came from. I was at that meeting.


Dr. Tinkle said...

I have several points here. First, if the student obtains a decent mid-term grade, they are likely to make all sorts of what may be erronious assumptions about passing the class. Second, if you teach large classes, it will take some time to do this. Third, it is just as likely that the student can figure out his or her grade without all the official procedures. Fourth, this strikes me as just one more thing to argue about that in the end won't matter a bit.

lawrence anderson said...

how to calculate continuous grading:
a) enter assignment scores into spreadsheet (has to be done anyway, so time does not count);
b) have spreadsheet update grades including curves, etc (ok- maybe 5 min to update the spreadsheet formula to include the assignment);
c) transpose grades to radio buttons on myUT (at most 3 sec per grade = 10 min for 200 students).
voila! something that may help students. is 15 minutes too much time to spend on students? i don't think so.