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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Just for the record

In another blog(utfacultyfirst) I was attacked for implying that mid-semester grades are a waste of time my time, and with being a conspiracy theorist as to why CWA settled. Since it doesn't seem to have been clear to some what I was saying, let me try to blow away the fog. Let's take the mid-semester grade problem. Some believe that I am just lazy. No. I just think that mid-semester grades are a waste of time. They will not achieve any great leap forward in education. They are merely something an administrator can point to and say, "Wow, look what I did." Just for the record, I explain very carefully to all my students how they can with one division problem figure out where their grade is at any time in the class. When they cannot do the division, I even do it for them. It is not the time involved; it is just one more way of saying to students, "you don't have to work at all." Education is a two-way street. You can lead a student to an education, but you can't make them think.

As to my comments on the CWA. The point was the administration said it would negotiate health care with all the unions at the same time. It did not. This is not a conspiracy. As to why CWA settled, I have no idea and I am not sure you would get an honest answer from anyone. They do not have tenure, I do. This puts their jobs in a much more precarious position than mine. Please note that CWA does not, as far as I know, have a blog. All one has to do is look at the Dixon case and understand that those of us with tenure have an obligation to speak out for those who cannot.

I was also accused in another blog of just wanting to keep the faculty angry. No. What I said was faculty should judge the administration by its actions not its words.

Finally, in that blog (utfacultyfirst) the blogger asked if I also drown kittens. No. I let the butcher take care of that. I merely grill them with a little butter and some garlic.


Odysseus said...

OK, cat-render Tinkle:

You certainly were accused. In fact you may even be responsible for the general decline in literacy and the appearance of the Emerald Ash Borer. I am sure "None" is also looking into the obvious linkage between your self-centered, flippant approach to teaching and the Peloponnesian Wars, which could have been averted had UT faculty only listened and obeyed administrators immediately without undue critical thinking concerning the meaning and utility of their directives.

None appears to have disappeared again for the moment, along with The UTfacultyfirst blog, which now is reduced to a message that the site has been shut down by its owner. I personaly doubt if None is even a faculty member based on the level of detachment demonstrated in the recent emails and posts (that's a euphemism for those of you who may be a bit too literal-minded).

lawrence anderson said...

kittens sure are tasty, aren't they? i suggest a ginger, soy, and green onion marinade prior to grilling.

i do still question placing blame on administrators for an "invitation" to help students, when the action clearly came from the senate. i also question why there is concern about "utility". the research has been done. in the faculty senate discussion,
jennifer rockwood says:

"There is quite a bit of research in the first year information resource center about early grades and it does in fact change a student’s work patterns and their study habits when they know that they are not doing well, especially in the first semester of their college year because they are unclear as to the academic rigors. There is a lot of proof that it does make a big difference. I do think it is hard to put a positive spin when you are not doing well, or you are failing. I think some universities call it Early Warning, but it is hard to find positive words for “you’re on your way out, buddy.” It does have a really big impact on first year students because that is when they are establishing their study habits and time management skills. It does make a big difference."

now, there was also discussion about the importance of "early warning" to faculty members in time for them to change their syllabi, if necessary. the senate executive committee expressly informed the provost that, in part due to the lateness of the announcement and in part due to the pilot nature of the project, anything done this semester must be voluntary. at council yesterday, penny poplin gosetti also invited everyone to suggest modifications that might prove useful, such as extending the open grading period to 8 weeks.

and finally, for those of us who provide continuous grading anyway, this project is doesn't cost anything, and is one more way to advise students outside of the private world of the classroom where it is easy to be in denial.

all of the work leading up to this open grading system has happened exactly as we might hope for any faculty initiative. seems good to me.

Odysseus said...

The utility is highly questionable. The idea as discussed in the provost's memo, is not even an experiment. It is just a suggestion from which we will learn...what? There is no control group. No plan to compare students who were given midterms with those who were not. Nothing but a vague, seemingly altrusitic suggestion that has about as much weight as a Hallmark card. This is not how knowledge is gained. And bugger this"quite a bit of research" blandishment of yours. What research, where and on whom? My guess is that , and this is only a guess and will remain as such even if we do midterm grades because there is NO thought-out research design in this vague idea, is that midterm grades may be of benefit to highly motivated students --who can maybe bump themselves up to the next level or so of grade , although if they pay any attention at all they should pretty much know what their grade is all along through class. This is because they receive graded work and they ATTEND. The marginal and problem people who it is really, I think, designed to help, it will not help at all. What good is a midterm grade to someone who never or seldom comes to class and never or seldom does any work? Have your ever heard of the knowledge gap.? Look it up. These non- students are the students that I have trouble with in my classes. And they, for whatever reasons, are unmotivated. They ignore all else. They don't read the syllabu.? They don't read or listen to the assignments. They don't pay attention even when they are there. And a midertem is going to fix this. Lawrence, you can give little midterm grades all you want, but don't be so eager to please your superiors. This idea, as it has been discussed, is just feelgood "bullshit" to quote Professor Heberle's recent remarks on a related topic. If the idea were fleshed out, with a rigorous research design and a point--to gain knowedge--not just look like we are being student centeredm then it would be worth doing. Come up with a sensible pilot program to TEST it. And this the provost and the provost's expert minion should have done. Otherwise it is wasted effort from which few will benfit. I try to conserve my energy for things that matter, like teaching the students who are there.

lawrence anderson said...

i certainly agree that there seems little that can be done for the students who are enrolled but not there; and that fraction is growing with each passing year. that is why i would like to see an activity report that goes to financial aid and or parents. the other choice that should be discussed more this year (we began last year) is selective admission. students not motivated for college should be encouraged to do something else.