Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Here Come The Grades

I think for the most part my students have been enjoying my class. I even think that I have them feeling more comfortable speaking in front of the class, which is one of my objectives for a public speaking course. Now, enter the grades. Things appeared to have changed.

The students just completed their first graded speech. They enjoyed giving them but as I handed them back, I noticed some faces that fell and they appeared to be disappointed with their grades.

There are a few things, I think, that are important to keep in mind. First off, one student got a ‘C’ and other than that, everyone got a ‘B-‘ or better. That means when it comes time to calculate the final average, everyone will have at least an 80 for the speech. The second thing is, not one student came up to me to discuss the grade. This may change but probably won’t. The only time the students seem to discuss grades is when, as a class, they all ‘take me on’. I don’t play that game anymore. If they want to discuss grades, let them talk to me one on one. The last thing to keep in mind is, I hate grading. I love evaluating but hate grading. As an evaluator, my goal is to give them feedback to make them better speakers. As a grader, my goal is to put a numerical equivalent on the critique.

When I first started teaching public speaking, my charge was to help the students learn, make them feel more comfortable speaking in public, give them the needed confidence and grade them objectively. That is quite a challenge. I think, for the most part, I have lived up to it. Some students come in and want a gift of a grade and I won’t do that. I am far from the easiest grader in the department. On the other hand, I am far from the hardest as well.

The truth is that about 90% of my students who are in class on a regular basis and make an honest attempt at the assignments will end up with a ‘B’ or an ‘A’. Those students who end up with a ‘D’ or fail my class have missed a number of them.

What is most interesting is how many students look at the grade and ignore the critique. A student last semester criticized me to my face for being such a tough grader. I asked her to tell me where she felt I was being unfair. She told me that she would write her feelings in a journal that she would hand me at the end of the semester and not to “worry about the issue,” at the current time.

I did not let her off the hook. I made her pull out the critique form then and there and went over each comment. Once we discussed it, she had a better idea of what she should be doing, of what I was looking for, and her grades dramatically improved.

I like serious students and I am willing to spend time with them. I even don’t mind people challenging my grades, if done correctly (Don’t attack me or make me feel like I am being attacked). Unfortunately, many students just want me to throw an ‘A’ on top of a critique and leave it at that.

I’m tempted one day to give them the critique forms back with no grades on them and force the students to read my comments without having their judgment of my comments tainted by the grade. That might be an interesting exercise.