11.6.07

IT'S DAUNTING TO MAKE THE CASE FOR "IT DEPENDS." My comment sheets for the spring semester are in, and one commentator observed,
Thanks! Good class, Good info. This was THE HARDEST I've ever fought for a "C."
I only have the typed transcripts the department staff prepares, so I don't know who this commenter was and if this is one of the people that managed a higher grade at the final, which often happens.

Some people don't like the uncertainty.

I wish the grading scale was more clear, but overall I thought it was a great course.

The grading scale was unclear. It was never possible to discern what my grade was exactly. Some of the homework & test questions were so broad in their scope that they were hard to answer.

Three observations.

One, if you want easy answers, listen to talk radio. (Note, I said "easy." I make no guarantee of accuracy. This is a perpetual struggle and someone invariably suffers culture shock.)

Two, if you want unambiguous results, take a calculus class, not a survey of public policy. (That's another perpetual struggle.)

Three, in a class with half the grade determined by a final exam and a semester-long project, it's going to be difficult to let people know exactly where they stand even at course evaluation time. Had I placed less emphasis on intellectual development throughout the semester it's likely I'd have requests for more flexibility in grading, with people understandably unhappy about being locked into a grade by then.

A less charitable interpretation might be that such commenters would prefer to know the minimal effort to make a C or a B and that's as self-defeating as attempting to learn the minimal standards for tenure. Some comments make it difficult to be charitable.
Grading how to understand. Create a overview before each test.
The department staff make an effort to transcribe these things accurately, poor grammar and sentence structure included. You have to be careful about asking me for an overview. In principles, I'll sometimes announce the answers in class. (The answers are "trading for mutual gain, specializing by comparative advantage, everything has an opportunity cost, and institutions evolve to reduce transactions costs." Your mission is to explain why one of those sentences applies.) Never ask a Vince Lombardi student for a scouting report. Or perhaps this is an individual who has been spoon fed online review sheets and downloadable summaries. Show up the class before the exam and ask questions!

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