Friday, May 23, 2008

An Embryonic Teacher Writes: I Don't Quite Get Your Comments on Grading That Class You Liked So Much.

And he added that he is preparing to teach his very first class, a college lecture course with 75 enrolled.

I reply:

As for grading, doing 75 is easier than doing ten. With a big class, you establish your curve, you have at least two multiple-choice/short-answer tests to go with whatever writing assignments you set, you use a number system to go with whatever grade you stick on papers (a B essay is worth 85 points), you add up all those points at semester's end, and when the results are laid out before you, you impose your template. But a ten-person class is harder to grade in that: if you have taught for a long time; and if you have had more than your share of dull classes in recent years; and if your current class is a sudden and unexpected delight in that the mood of the class is involved, challenged and challenging *and approving of you*, you don’t want to discount the fact that every member of the class has contributed to that chemistry and may well deserve some extra credit.

All that said, in the class of which I speak, when I read their final big assignment (a 2,000-4,000 word profile) some were better than others; some really were strong A’s. And that meant I couldn’t give everyone in the class an A, though I wanted to. I did let a couple B’s float up to B+, but that was it.

At the end of the day, I want an A from Robertson to be strong currency.

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