Friday, March 28, 2008

Coping with grade disappointment...

My tendency is to say "it's not fair." Then to say, "maybe he graded it wrong." Then to imagine ways to fix the grade or get an extra point or two or go back in time and re-take the test.

In the end, I always just accept it and move on, because really, it's my fault and getting annoyed at the professor is just a lame way to shift the responsibility away from myself.

I got my calculus test back and I did well...but not as well as I hoped. For some reason, I tried to solve an improper integral using integration, after being warned that doing so would result in absolutely no credit. It brought my grade down by 10%. I would have had an A+. It would have brought my overall grade up to a solid A.

The only real complaint I have about the test was this: I hate the red question mark. To me, it says one of two things: either "I don't understand what you were trying to do here" or "what the hell were you thinking?" Now, it's pretty clear what I was doing...I simply went about solving the integral as if it weren't improper. I know my teacher knew this. So, what I took from his little scribble was, "what the hell were you thinking?" I already ask myself that enough, thank you...I don't need another voice to add to the cacophony inside my head.

Then again...maybe I should toughen up a bit. Or, maybe he simply expected more from me and I should take the big question mark as a compliment.


Zach Miller said...

Bah--once again, math is my sworn enemy, but don't beat yourself up over an A instead of an A+!

Jerry D. Harris said...

For whatever it's worth, I also tend to grade things via a system of cryptic marks, though I generally try and explain what they mean the first time the students see them. A check mark basically means the answer's OK. A wavy horizontal line means that I accepted it, but on, say, an exam, I probably wouldn't. A question mark means either (a) where's your answer (when the answer space is left blank -- this way a student can't pencil in something later!), (b) I can't read your handwriting and I have no idea what this says, or (c) this might as well be written in Sanskrit for all I understand of what you're trying to say. (For really bizarre stuff, I'll often put multiple question marks.) I'm going to guess here that (c) is what your prof meant here.

Why do I use a system of cryptic marks? Trust me, when you've got stacks of stuff to grade, writing extensive (and often repetitive) comments on individual student papers/exams becomes really tedious, and substantially lengthens the grading process. Rather than write the same thing multiple times, I just post an answer key with more or less my desired answers on it for everyone in the class to see at once -- that way, I only have to write things out once, saving gobs of time. Yes, it's much more impersonal, but being able to get graded assignments and exams back to the students in a reasonable period of time is one of my goals, too. Of course, I could hypothetically switch over to ScanTron tests and eliminate the need to grade anything by hand, but that means that I can't account easily for individual student answers that might be perfectly fine (even if not exact matches to my preferences), and where math is concerned, I can't give partial credit for work done correctly prior to some error. (Plus, some of my questions are "label the picture" or short answer, neither of which lends itself easily to ScanTron.) So I'm still burdened with grading, but I like to think that doing so manually enables me to maximize a student's points. I just gotta cut the time factor down somehow!