Lab grades and larger issues

Jonathan M. Greenberg jongreen at BLUEMARBLE.NET
Mon Oct 27 13:50:14 EST 1997

As a curriculum developer who writes mostly for K-12 teachers, I'd like to
remind the group in relation to this discussion of two points often
emphasized in K-12 teacher education, and that I think would help here:

1) Vary your teaching style. This helps a lot with the "hit-or-miss" problem
mentioned earlier.

2) Think hard about why you give grades at all, and be willing to do unusual
things as a result of your conclusions. Who are they for? Aer they supposed
to measure how much the student learned about the subject matter? How adept
the student is at learning in general? Are they supposed to help the
students identify where they need more work? If so, then they are meant at
least partly as diagnostic, rather than evaluative: Do you offer students
the opportunity to correct the deficiencies your tests reveal? If not, why
bother testing at all? Do you do an item analysis of your tests? If not, how
do you evaluate your tests? When do you think you have succeeded as a
teacher? When the mean scores are in the 70% range? 90%? 40%? Do you feel
that you are successful if 20 or 30% of your students fail to learn the
subject matter? If not, what can you do to improve your classes? Remember
that testing of student, curriculum, and nstructor go hand in hand.

These thoughts are meant mainly to provoke reflection. I hope they are useful.

>At 3:16 PM -0500 10/26/97, Bill Purves wrote:
>>Put any dozen of us in an enclosed area to discuss those things, and
>>we would of course come up with a minimum of nine different answers
>>to each of those questions ;-)    Even so, I would be inclined to
>>mull over those questions before every course I was about of offer.
>>Besides, even if different ones of us come up with very different answers
>>and, as a result, approach grading very differently, our students will
>>most likely gain from all of us, if we've thought hard and well and
>>then follow through on our best thoughts.
>I agree with Bill on this too! We each approach the
>teaching and learning function from different perspectives
>and the students do the same.  This means that we have
>a good match with only some of our students in any one
>approach.  The other students will have difficulty with
>our courses because the match is not made.
>In my youth I thought there was one right way to teach
>and learn.  That naive thought occurred because I was seeing
>it only from my own personal perspective.  Experience now
>tells me that Bill is right.  As a department chair you
>really get to appreciate this.  Complaints roll in from
>the students about every faculty member, but who is
>complaining and about what tells me that we are talking
>about hits and misses that occur when teaching and learning
>styles match or not.  The interviews with the complainants
>have been fascinating and very enlightening.  Concrete
>thinking students LOVE the drill and practice faculty and
>HATE the abstract and experiential focus of our lab-centered
>faculty.  I'm not using these words to name-call but to indicate
>that there is a match between student and faculty member.
>There are other students who feel just the opposite about
>the two types of faculty members mentioned above.
>So, to me Bill's lesson here is: know your own teaching
>style and value system and use that to create an honest
>course.  In my previous post I wrote where my style is
> is just one of the possible styles.
>Ross Koning                 | koning at
>Biology Department          |
>Eastern CT State University | phone: 860-465-5327
>Willimantic, CT 06226 USA   | fax: 860-465-4479
>Electronic services composed and served from =95Macintosh hardware.
Jon Greenberg, Ph.D.           Curriculum Development and Teaching Materials
Science Education Consultant   Teacher Education and Professional Development
jongreen at        Curriculum and Program Evaluation

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