Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"I always get an A." : Negotiating, our limited talents, and showing up on time.

Undergraduate students look better and better in terms of indicators.  We should be able to have stronger, better-prepared students in our classes. But there would seem to be a fraction, perhaps 1/4? that have yet to get the message. [I  believe that similar issues come up in promotion and tenure.] 

0. Some people just cannot show up on time. They are late for classes, meetings, with school work,  . . . And they seem to be owned by their phones and laptops, as if no one notices that they are rude and disrespectful. 

1. Students want the imprimatur of our approval and authority, but want to negotiate. So if they do not receive an A, say, they want to know exactly why, in terms of a rubric or specific failings. This makes sense, except that any such grading system is likely irreproducible at the level of perhaps 1/3 of a grade: we might grade the quality of the work as B+ or a B. So it could make good sense to negotiate. It could be that we assign points to particular features, as in a formal rubric, but then there is room to argue about those points. A student's prior is likely that the grade is unfair in that it undervalues their performance, rather than it is too generous. But we are not in a bazaar or in a financial negotiation, and as significantly, they have yet to learn that you need to leave something on the table so that your opposite is willing to deal with you in the future.
a. I have noticed, and this is at least a 25-years old phenomenon, that students will try to wear you down in a negotiation. (I am reminded of a crying baby who will not stop--for they really are needy.) If two students are negotiating, they can alternate, and if they are really talented they can act like inquisitors.

2. "I always get an A." "You are destroying my GPA." Again, the prior is that the previous grades were accurate, and that precision is great. Now if they have "always" received A's, is that for many performances, for undergraduate work but now they are in graduate school, or is it just two other courses? My inclination is to believe that they were lucky, or that their other instructors were too generous. 

3. "How can I get an A?"  As in "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?", the answer is "Practice," but also it may be that you need to have more talent than you possess: Hard work will only go so far. 

4.  In part, students are concerned that they be treated fairly. This is an appropriate concern, and an authority that is unfair or biased loses its legitimacy.

5. Basic skills need work. 
a. Spelling, grammar, and diction may well be inadequate. And, what is most striking is that have not spellchecked or noticed the red/blue... underlining Word and other such provide.
b. High School math has been forgotten: plotting a line, fairly simple algebraic manipulation. 

6. As important, those basic skills would appear to some to be irrelevant to their future professional ambitions. If they want to be pole dancers or gigolos, that may well be the case. (But then other skills and talents are required.) But in their first jobs, if they cannot produce coherent brief memos, without typos and in good form, if they cannot do some basic analysis of data, they are likely to be severely handicapped. 

No comments: