In light of the recent events that have shaken our campus, I almost forgot that this week is finals week.
Students are scrambling with finishing their projects and completing exams, faculty are scrambling with grading and finalizing their courses, staff are scrambling trying to close the semester and everything that needs to be completed to submit and finalize grades.
Finals are never easy. And this year they just got a lot harder. At the risk of sounding trite, I hope you remember to take care of each other, always, and especially during this week.
Please reach out to Faculty Development if you need any support and take advantage of our beautiful Rose Garden Room (MLIB 459) for some respite.
Chiara Ferrari, Ph.D.
Faculty Development Director
Many of us will do anything to avoid grading. If you have a to-do list you need to get through and avoiding grading is that push you need to clean the gutters, finish your shopping, or clean the grout in your bathroom please disregard this email. If you are someone who actually wants to get your grading done read on!
The Faculty Grading Oasis is open and we want to help you finish your grading. Here is what we have to offer.
- Fresh coffee, creamer, tea, and snacks.
- Space away from your office where no one will knock on your door, and you can get grading done.
- Help from our student staff Monday-Thursday 8-5. They can alphabetize exams, grade exams with direction (as long as the student name is hidden), and help with clerical tasks.
- Accountability from each other and from admin extraordinaire Michelle Wysocki, who comes in to MLIB 459 to peer at you with her judging eyes if you are off task.
Dr. Sara Cooper has provided additional Book in Common Material. Check out this section of the CELT page for regular synopsis updates, discussion questions, and other resources.
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Sometimes assigning grades can be the most unpleasant part of the semester. Attaching summative value to a semester’s worth of work can seem reductive and dismissive of the growth and learning we see in our students. My least favorite part of the grading process has always been the request to “bump” grades based on effort, proximity to another letter grade, or an impassioned plea. In most of my courses I have go so far as to issue a Blackboard announcement making it clear grades are not raised OR lowered based on criteria extraneous to the syllabus.I was also eager to use the “I don’t give grades, you earned them” zinger whenever possible. My justifications were always clear to me.
- Grade breakdowns along the guidelines specified in the syllabus are the fairest way to deliver grades. Anything else is unpredictable.
- If I were to bump grades up, students have to be ready for me to bump them down for similarly arbitrary reasons, otherwise the practice leads to grade inflation.
- Grades are a product of work and performance. If students want better grades, they need to perform better.
This may not be the perspective you take when assigning letter grades at the end of the semester. You may have even better reasons for your policies. My advice is to make whatever grading policy you have clear to your students. If you move grades up and down based on some additional criteria at the end of the semester, let your students know in advance. If grades follow a strict statistical model, make sure it is in the syllabus. We don’t owe our students good grades, but we do owe them transparency and honesty in the process.
Top 10 reasons to come to the Faculty Grading Oasis (open 8-5) in MLIB 458
- Get out of your office…where the walls are closing in on you.
- No one knocks on the door asking where the bathroom is.
- Free coffee and treats.
- Student help if you need exams alphabetized or data entered (as long as we are FERPA compliant).
- Bring one thing and focus on it rather than getting distracted at home or your office.
- Experience the magic of the 4th floor of the library.
- You are unlikely to run into that colleague who roams the hallway, complaining about how much grading they have to do.
- We are closer to Common Grounds than where you normally work.
- Our office is now is now 173 days since our last Chupacabra attack. You will probably be safe.
- We control our thermostat.
Some semesters you just want collect their final assignments, send them away, and get back to your office and collapse. Occasionally the last class feels like more like saying goodbye to those cool friends you met on vacation when you made that intense trek up the mountain together and nearly died in the avalanche but it was worth it because you got to hear the monks chanting at sunrise while you shared pots of smoky tea and watched the peaks emerge from the clouds. Okay, maybe not quite like that. But surely some significant connections have been made as this group has worked together over the past 15 weeks. The last couple of class sessions offer a chance to help students crystallize what was really meaningful about that experience, which in turn can help us see our teaching work more clearly.
Here are four things you might try this last week:
- Ask students to write a note of advice to the students who will take the course next semester. What should they look forward to, watch out for, or prepare for to get the most out of the course? These can be turned into a how-to-succeed guide for your next group of students, with the benefit of having been crowd-source by experienced authorities.
- Take five minutes to discuss or have students write about questions or problemsthe course leaves them with. What piqued their interest but needs more investigation? What turned out to be more complicated than they suspected? Especially if these problems can be linked with further coursework they will do in their program, this is a great way for students to see your course as part of a larger field of inquiry.
- Here’s my favorite: For years a magazine I sometimes read ran a guest-authored column called “How My Mind Has Changed.” When I first started teaching I stole the idea and on the last day of class asked my students to write a one-paragraph response to that prompt in relation to our course. They could reflect on new information they had assimilated, new opinions on a topic we had explored, even revised attitudes toward learning itself. The exercise allows the students to look up from study guides and exam schedules to glimpse the bigger picture of their growth as educated people. Sort of the point, right?
- Make sure the people who formed the temporary community that was your class have a chance to say goodbye to each other. Maybe it’s two minutes set aside for classmates to swap contact info; maybe it’s just a full eye-contact handshake when they give you their final exam. Ceremony is powerful. With or without chanting monks.
*Authored by Dr. Katherine McCarthy.