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.
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* 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
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.
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.
As professors we spend a lot of time and energy trying to improve the lives of our students. We spend extra time grading, hold that one additional office hour, and answer emails at all times. Sometimes we lose track of the fact that we are valuable resources because we have spent so much time and energy on our own development. You are an expert in your field because you maintain an active research agenda. You know what it is like to be a student because you have multiple degrees. You have sage advice for students because you have experience in multiple job markets.
Take some time to invest in your own professional development as a service to yourself and your students. One great resource for this is a tool the University has invested in on your behalf! Take advantage of the “20 Minute Mentor” subscription through Magna Commons.
As a member of our campus community this online resource from Magna Publications is available at no cost to you. 20 Minute Mentor Commons offers on-demand versions of their popular 20 Minute Mentor programs, covering a broad range of faculty development topics including “How can I create a sense of urgency for change?” and “How do I get students to come to class prepared”. Sign up today and help energize your higher education career.
STEP 1: Activate your 20 Minute Mentor Commons subscription
- Go to www.magnapubs.com/sitelicense/registration.html?v=magna61715
- Enter information in each of the required fields. In the Authorization Code box, enter our group Authorization Code CSUCHICO587and click Submit
Please note: entering the Authorization Code is done only once.
STEP 2: Access the 20 Minute Mentor Commons library
- Go to www.magnapubs.com/profile
- Enter your email address & password & click Submit. If you do not know or remember your account password, use “Forget your password?” to reset it.
- On the left side of the screen, under My Account, My Online Access, select Subscriptions. The online content you have access to will be listed to the right. Click the appropriate link to view the content.
Access to 20 Minute Mentor Commons is also available to registered members at www.mentorcommons.com.
Please do not share the Authorization Code with anyone outside our campus community.
- Call 800-433-0499 ext. 2 (outside the U.S. & Canada call 608-246-3590 ext. 2.). Our office hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Central Time, Monday through Friday.
Today’s tip is simple: Invest in yourself. It’s so easy to keep putting off the things that will really improve our professional lives simply because too many things are on fire right in front of us. But a few strategic investments of time and resources can make a huge difference in updating and reinvigorating a course, getting research done, even developing a long term plan for our careers. So here’s the deal: CELT/Faculty Affairs will offer some resources if you’ll put in some time.
Here are four opportunities for you to invest in yourself:
- Publish an Article in 12 Weeks. Join a Faculty Learning Community this spring devoted to turning research projects into published articles. We will pay you to do this. Really. (Not a lot, but still.) See attached description and application. Applications due December 5.
- Come to the HERS Roundtable. Where do your see yourself in 5 years? 10? Learn about the leading national academic women’s leadership program from four campus alumnae who will share their experiences and help us strategize for women’s leadership development at Chico State. Next Wednesday, November 12, 3-4, SSC 150. See attached flier for more information. We’ll bring the snacks.
- Get credit for teaching innovation. CELT’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Grants will pay up to $1000 for you to travel to conferences where you present work on (or just learn about!) new approaches to teaching and learning. Full details and application are available here; the deadline for this round is December 1.
- Reinvigorate a course with newer, less expensive materials. The Textbook Alternatives Project (TAP) offers $1000 stipends to faculty who will invest some time exploring alternatives to expensive textbooks with the support of TLP and subject librarians. Details and application are available here. The deadline is November 7, but the application won’t take you long.
*Authored by Dr. Katherine McCarthy.