<rant> I’m not sure when it dawned on me that I’m a professional educator.
Maybe when I was not only a full-time instructor, but the senior instructor, or maybe right before or right after being tagged and released as a “Dean” – whatever that meant at the time.
Mostly it meant I still get to teach, but I spend much more time discussing with students why they needed to actually attend class and complete all of their coursework if they want that elusive GPA. Then there’s all the administrative stuff…
In any event, I get it – I’m still a professional creative, but I spend the bulk of my time as an educator. Of course, much of consulting is educating clients on better decision making with regard to whatever they needed a consult on, so there’s a lot of crossover there. It’s just that now I find myself in discussions (mostly with other educators) around “pedagogy” (go look it up, I’ll wait…) and “cognitive dissonance” and the impact on adult learners.
As I’ve gotten deeper in to the mechanics of educating my fellow humans at the post secondary educational level, I’ve noticed a trend among students. No matter how far we evolve education into being collaboration between student and instructor, no matter how well we think we articulate Learning Outcomes at the Institutional, Programmatic, and Course Levels; I constantly hear students complain “they gave me a low grade.” Not only do I hear this in the institution where I’m currently employed, but I hear anecdotes from colleagues at other school in other cities and states as well.
While it may be easy to dismiss these complaints as student whining, it’s hard to ignore that the perception must come from somewhere.
One particular source that seemed likely is student past experience. The pop culture icon of the power crazed tenure track professor who assigns grades based on spite and favor comes to mind.
I’ve never met one – but I’m told they’re out there and if I meet one I should never let it smell fear. Funny thing, I’ve heard the same about yeti. I’ve never met one of those, either.
What I have experienced is an occasion when one of my kids came home with a bad grade. If you count the dogs, I’ve had 4 so I’m not going to embarrass anyone by specifying date or subject. For all you know, I’m talking about Max’s obedience school days.
So the student arrived at home with a less than acceptable GPA. I take it in stride. We start work shopping the subject. They get it. So I ask what the disconnect seems to be, and the answer – wait for it… “She just gives me bad grades.”
Finding this unlikely, I email the teacher. Hey, my student is not making the grade, what’s the issue as far as you’re concerned? Blah, blah, blah.
Part of the answer was unsurprising – a blown deadline here, a low quiz there. But the deal beaker with the GPA was a significant percentage of points deducted for “disruption” in class.
This kind of threw me. After all, my student came home with 2 sets of grades. One is academic (A,B,C, lower) and the other is “Citizenship”. My follow up inquiry was basically, isn’t that why you have citizenship grades? Her reply was that it was the only way she could maintain order in her classroom. All students care about is their GPA, she claimed, so she leveraged it.
Insert heavy sigh right about here.
Here is an actual example of a real teacher for real actually and openly just giving a grade as a classroom control measure.
Not cool, Teach.
So here’s my team at the university, building truly killer modern curricula designed to turn out well educated professionals with scaffolded curricula, embedded assessments designed to specifically measure actual skill against well aligned outcomes and scored based on defined grading rubrics, and we still have to deal with the student perception that “teachers just give out grades” – because experience clearly indicates that some of them do exactly that.
As a professional educator, I really wish they wouldn’t. It creates far more problems than it solves.
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