9.7.09

ENTITLEMENT, OR EASIER COMMUNICATION. There's a new course rule nailed to Newmark's Door.
"No opportunities for extra credit are available. Effort doesn't count; results do."
He was moved to add it after reading an article (in the Madison Capital Times, with local commentary from the University of Wisconsin) with predictable laments about grade-grubbing collegians. The line that set him off was the line that most annoys economists.
If I have explained to my professor that I am trying hard, I think he/she should give me some consideration with respect to my course grade.
That passage, from an otherwise unattributed survey of collegians, possibly one done at California-Irvine, obtained 66.2 percent agreement from a sample of 466 students at an unnamed university that may or may not have been identified in a statistically sound way. It is an annoying line, because inputs do not map into outputs, and collegians are no different from any other population in believing that they're working really hard, no matter the results. (Hard work without focus is overrated. Mules work hard. So do technical analysts.) The accompanying article offers the perception that collegians today are more prone to argue grades than their predecessors.
[Biology faculty associate Sharon] Thoma estimates she received 20 such e-mails this spring out of some 850 students. "They'll typically say, 'I know you said there won't be any grade adjustments, but I worked really hard and I don't feel that the grade reflects the effort I put into the class,'" says Thoma, who stresses most students work hard in class and understand the ground rules. "And so I have a new standard reply: 'I can't quantitate your effort.'"
Quantitate? Substantively, though, that's two percent of the class, possibly the outcome you'd observe by chance, and electronic mail lowers the cost of whining. (I have to count to ten or remind myself it's business when such a whine comes in from somebody who almost never attended class and turned in projects irregularly or at all. I note that electronic mail is not secure although the paper trail is in my office. That's usually the end of the whine.) A grade protest used to involve a visit to an office, or a telephone call. So much easier to key in a gripe and hope for the best.

Or perhaps, to get the word out that the bar is higher.
Sure, effort is good. But at this rung of the education ladder it's somewhat surprising all students don't realize it's the results that matter. So in an effort to clarify expectations, educators across the UW campus are taking steps to nip potential misunderstandings in the bud, starting with freshman orientation. Additionally, professors are seeking to avoid potential grade disputes by spelling out in class syllabi and on their websites what is expected of students and how grades are determined. Still others are using lecture time early in the semester to further outline expectations.
Start from a population of high achievers out of high school and then mix them with other high achievers. (I won't speculate on where the underachievers went.)

"What strikes me most profoundly is the notion that students -- and I don't know if it's a generational issue or a matter of how kids are trained in K through 12 -- have this strong sentiment that if they work hard enough they should get an A," says Irene Katele, an adjunct professor at the UW who teaches a large undergraduate course each semester on legal studies. "There is a belief that there's a correlation between the effort and the prize."

Allison Wolfe, a UW-Madison senior majoring in psychology, says she's never personally felt she deserved a higher grade in class, but knows people who have. "I agree that some students feel entitled to higher grades. They may have gotten good grades in high school without a lot of effort, and think the effort they put into their college classes is a lot in comparison, when really they haven't established a good work ethic yet. Some people adjust and work harder, and some blame their professors."

It's really about finding those senior non-coms for the introductory classes. That's nice, kid, but this is the fleet.

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