May 27, 2010

Stopped Before It Started?

Filed under: Standard Based Grading — Adam Glesser @ 5:13 am

A couple of weeks ago, the course coordinator for finite mathematics (one of the courses I’m teaching in the fall and the first class for which I’m preparing standards) came to discuss my ideas. The concern is that I would, potentially, be giving so many make-up quizzes. Aside from the extra work and stress it would put on me, the main issue is that it is fairly standard here for professors to have a “No make-up quiz” policy (independent of other faculty, this has always been my policy, as well) and mightn’t students in other sections of the course become hostile to their instructors upon learning that they can’t re-assess content while their peers in my course can?

The Unspoken Bit

This next year will be my third year at Suffolk and that marks a key point in my academic career—the 3-year tenure review. The last thing I want is to jeopardize tenure by irritating faculty, especially those faculty who have supported me and are simply trying to avoid disasters.

The Spoken Bit

Another faculty member supported my system, arguing to the course coordinator that as long as I didn’t use class time for re-assessment, then my system isn’t a problem. I argued that there is still the issue of other faculty being affected by my cavalier ways, but he was not impressed.

The Tricky Bit

I think they’re both right. If other students react by challenging their teachers, it might turn those classrooms into nightmares to teach. On the other hand, some of those classrooms may already be nightmares to teach; I should have the authority to design my course around demonstrably solid academic principles and it isn’t clear to me that the other students will respond so negatively to their teachers.

“…and to make a long story short—TOO LATE”

I’m not sure what to do. I want the best for me and my students, but not at the cost of making the lives of twenty or so adjunct faculty extremely difficult. Ideas, anyone?



  1. Can you compromise for this year? I found that allowing limited re-tests was making my life hell, even though they were small and not super intensive, I’m really just not super organised a lot of the time. So, my students and I compromised – you get one re-test per unit/section. I wasn’t SBG-ing, or not technically by name or philosophy (I’d need to read more about it, I’m not sure how it’s different/the same from good, up to date assessment practices) so I’m not sure if this goes against your primary idea.

    Then once you have the magical tenure you can tell them all to get up to speed (of course by engaging in meaningful dialogue about your rationale & practices…) or just get over the fact that students prefer your course 😉

    Comment by park_star — May 27, 2010 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  2. Also, when I mention that 70% of my grade is quizzes, and another 10% benchmark exams, I find that outsiders get a lot less jealous… *grin*

    Comment by Meg Claypool — May 27, 2010 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

  3. If I was in your position, I’d just wait a year. Other teachers do get annoyed when my former students complain to them.

    Comment by Kate Nowak — May 28, 2010 @ 11:34 am | Reply

    • I think I would have the same problem next year (assuming they let me teach one of the coordinated courses again). Even if I do well at the three-year review, I don’t get the first level of tenure until around year six. I’d hate to wait that long to try this stuff. By the way, do the annoyed teachers hold it against you?

      Comment by Adam Glesser — May 28, 2010 @ 12:09 pm | Reply

  4. But surely by college (unless I really don’t understand what that means, university & college are essentially the same thing here) you don’t have students whining to other teachers “but in Mr. Glesser’s class…”

    Comment by park_star — May 28, 2010 @ 12:59 pm | Reply

  5. Nah. They’re pretty awesome. We teach and let teach around here.

    Comment by Kate Nowak — May 28, 2010 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

  6. Once in a while my students tell me “but last semester” (in the first semester of a 2-semester sequence course) “Mr Teacher let us take group tests, and use our math glossary on tests”, and I say “darn, nope, I’m not doing that” and that’s the end of it. The faculty member supporting your idea is probably sufficiently confident, that (s)he has no problem handling differences that way.

    Watch out for the retests-taking-all-your-time problem, though. I do it twice a semester in calc I, and it does indeed take plenty of time to do it well. If you can find some way to implement this in a limited fashion the first time you do it, that would probably be wise. I’m sure you will learn a lot the first time that will make the second time work lots better. Good luck with it–I’ll be following your reports with interest!

    Comment by LSquared — June 25, 2010 @ 10:27 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for the comment, LSquared. I am starting to get extremely nervous about how I’ll handle retests. I think that I will almost certainly do more oral than written (for speed considerations), but what really worries me is how I’ll keep track of these things on a constant basis. If a student demonstrates real understanding during class, should I raise his grade on that standard? If so, does this mean I keep the grade book with me at all times? If so, oy, might this be a messy semester. I’m not sure. Thankfully, I get to do a trial run starting this next week. Perhaps, the pain will not be so great as to kill me off entirely.

      Comment by Adam Glesser — July 4, 2010 @ 11:25 am | Reply

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