College Math Teaching

November 27, 2012

Do students really only want fair treatment?

Filed under: academia, mathematics education — Tags: — collegemathteaching @ 11:36 pm

During my 20 years of teaching college level mathematics, I’ve frequently had discussions of this type (almost always near the end of the semester):

D/F student: “Oh, I tried so hard in your class, and I really need to pass!”
Me: “make sure that when you study, you do ……” (insert study tips here).

D/F student: “but, I really need to pass this class!”

Note: we’ve moved well beyond the study tips part of the conversation. What I’ve started to do is to say something like this:

“Don’t worry, you’ll be graded fairly. I grade everyone’s problem 1, then everyone’s problem 2, and so on. I often don’t even know whose paper I am grading when I grade the problem. Then at the end, I enter everyone’s numbers into the spread sheet, do the calculations, and move the names off of the view screen when I do the course grade assignments. I don’t even know who is getting what grade until I enter the grades into the university system!”

At this point, their face falls.

My conjecture: they are NOT looking for “fairness”. 🙂

Unfortunately, many don’t see a grade as something that reflects their performance in the class or their level of knowledge of the material. Instead they see it as a commodity that I have and that they want.

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