But I really deserve an A

I have a tortured relationship with grade appeals. I admire the investment of students in their education. It takes courage to walk into an office hour and make a case for a higher grade to what may be an unreceptive audience. Whether it is the first office hour visit of the semester or the 100th, I appreciate a student who is willing to advocate for themselves. I also dread every one of these conversations where students sometimes pry into the minutia of assignments I put behind me months ago.

Over time I have developed some strategies for dealing with this that I have shared earlier. A recent article from Faculty Focus shed light on a different way to deal with these conversations, through rubrics. The argument is relatively simple: greater clarity in the grading process decreases complaints and can increase student performance. It can also prevent you from getting sued. A student literally sued University of Massachusetts, Amherst over a passing, but apparently unsatisfactory grade in 2007. He lost the case and it is extreme, but it does highlight the commitment of some students to the grades they feel they deserve.

There are other benefits to more systematized grading as well. A 2010 study by Bickes and Schim revealed rubrics as an effective way to curb grade inflation in a nursing program by standardizing grading practices across sections. I have always found the process of creating rubrics instructive as it forces me to consider the relative value of components of an assignment. Rubrics are not the answer to all your problems, but they do offer some real benefits in the short and long term.

Looking for time to form a Faculty Learning Community and develop some program rubrics? As luck would have it, we are in the window for Learning Enhancement Grants and I encourage you to apply for any worthy idea.

Got an idea for a tip or feedback about this one? Don’t hesitate to send it to us. We are developing a wordpress site (under construction) to showcase teaching tips and your great ideas.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! The newest episode is on our new President. Link to it on itunesovercast, or follow the podcast on facebook.

*  Bickes, J. T. & Schim, S. M. (2010). Righting writing: Strategies for improving nursing student papers. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 7, 1-11. doi: 10.2202/1548-923X.1964

 

Why aren’t they paying attention?

Today’s tip is about a tough issue without an easy answer: homelessness and food security. A study from the Chancellor’s Office brought some of those issues home to us. They are estimating up to 12% of students have insecure housing and up to 24% experience regular food insecurity. This is based on a limited preliminary study which is being continued. These numbers are shocking, but consistent with other studies, including some national work on Community College students. As many of the researchers note this is a difficult topic because of the stigma associated with housing and food insecurity students are often reluctant to self-report these problems.

This is a tough topic, but you may be wondering what it has to do with teaching. First and foremost, we care about our students as people and I would imagine most of us would want to help our students even if these problems did not intersect with learning. Unsurprisingly, they do intersect with learning. The aforementioned national study from Wisconsin’s HOPE lab reports “The data suggest that students feel quite compromised by inadequate living situations, and often struggle to focus on school.”

It is not your responsibility as an instructor to ask distracted students if they are hungry or offer up a room in your house. We can point them toward resources on and off campus.

Hungry Wildcat Logo

Our Wildcat Food Pantry is a great resource for students, but did you know they can also sign up for EBT in Kendall 110? Also, students should ask about veggie bucks at the Wednesday sales outside the BMU. I would suggest these resources for all students rather than just ones you think might be in need. The pantry should be a resource for some people, and other students might be in a position to donate. In any case, the emerging research on this topic should give us pause as we are often quick to judge our students. That distracted look or forgotten assignment may be the result of dire circumstances outside their control. 

Got an idea for a tip or feedback about this one? Don’t hesitate to send it to us. We are developing a wordpress site (under construction) to showcase teaching tips and your great ideas.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Caffeinated Cats podcast! The newest episode is on Greek life at Chico. Link to it on itunessoundcloud, or follow the podcast on facebook.

 

If Only I…

We often have complaints and ideas in the middle of the semester.

  • If only I had a tablet to keep track of attendance I would remember that student’s name.
  • If I had a course release to work on this redesign it would make a difference, I just need some time.
  • If my colleagues and I could get together and talk about this over the summer, we could solve this problem.

Then when opportunity knocks in the form of budget to be spent down or a request for proposals we find ourselves saying “I’m fine, I don’t really need anything.” Sometimes we say this because filling out another form seems like an insurmountable obstacle. Sometimes we cannot remember what we wished we had. Sometimes we figure other people have real needs and what we would ask for is not that important.

Stop it.

Not just one of those behaviors, stop all of them. Take the time to fill out the form, most of the time it is easier than it seems. Make a note to yourself using Evernote, google docs, or an old fashioned sticky note when you have an idea that would improve learning. The needs of your students are real and if you have a good idea, don’t let it linger in the back of your mind, get it done.

Investing a little time and energy into improving learning environments is almost always worth it.

On an immediate note take the time to apply for a Learning Enhancement Grant (announcement on Wednesday) to get course release, create a Faculty Learning Community, or buy needed materials, etc. This is our most flexible internal grant and one that can make a real difference for you and your students. You may have noticed that we have been working to streamline the application process for our programs and this is no exception. Have a look at the google form when it is published on Wednesday and the included directions to see just how easy it can be to apply for funding to increase student learning.