Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Thirsty: Hey proffie, how drunk can I be during the final?

GAD, I hate this frelling question! From a student email.

"What grade do I have now? I don't know what grade I should try to get on the final exam."

It never occurred to me, when I was a student, to shoot for anything less than an A. I often fell short, especially in science classes, but I never went into a test thinking "I just need to study enough to get a B on this test."

What answer, snarky and non-snarky, would you give to this question? I told the student to work for an A.


-- Middle Aged and Morose

14 comments:

  1. I've had the same question asked of me, and it clearly sounds like the student is thinking of budgeting their time so as not to "waste" any more than necessary to get a certain grade. In more charitable moments I think they may be probing the discrepancy between their self-perception and numerical reality so that they can feed that info back into modifying their approach to their studies, but then the moment passes. Here are some things I've actually said, situation-depending:

    Your main problem is manifest in how you don't know what grade you should try to get on the final, and all others stem from that. If you were engaged in your studies, you'd already know your progress to date, and you wouldn't settle for attempting anything less than 100%.

    Just assume that between now and the final, you have ONE JOB, and that's to be as prepared as you can for the final. Study like you need a 100 on the final just to barely pass. You have a whole pack of practice questions, so PRACTICE.

    This course imparts knowledge that is crucial to your chosen career. What you need to demonstrate on the final will be used in everything you do for the rest of your working life. Why would you want that to be anything less than 100%?

    If you're asking how incompetent you can be and still pass, you've already lost the game. I won't be a party to it.

    If you're asking this, then your grades are less than perfect, and that's for two reasons I can think of off the top of my head. Either you've been aiming to hit that specific grade, in which case you've already figured out how to do that and shouldn't need me to tell you any more, or you have been aiming for the top and falling short, in which case you've already proven that you aren't expert enough to know how much is "enough" studying for a particular grade in the subject. Guess which possibility I'm betting on?

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    1. *Copies these and pastes them into Evernote*

      Delete
  2. In a system without +/- grades, this is a pretty easy question, so I usually answer it straightforwardly: Your grade if you don't do the assignment will be x, if you get an F, then y, and the highest you could get would be a z.

    It's still odd for me, after 6 years, teaching in a system with just straight letter grades

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    1. ... In theory, the lack of fine-tuned grade-grubbing is nice, but it also means a lack of motivation to try "just a little bit harder" unless they're right on the cusp.

      Delete
    2. I've often wondered how it would be to go the other way--just record the percentage instead of a letter grade. If they got an 89.9% for the class, that's what goes on the transcript.

      Oh, who(m) am I kidding. They'd still be after me for that extra tenth of a point.

      Delete
  3. "Here are your grades to date... (insert list of grades). Please see the syllabus for the grade breakdown for the course."

    Done. Fin! End of story

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    1. Yeah, that works, too. I've used one like it, and it's so dirt-simple that I plain forgot it this morning:

      The syllabus and your scores on all tests and assignments to date are on the MooBoard course site.

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  4. Your current grade is in line with the effort you have expended on this class to date, and is located on the MooBoard course site.
    The final exam is designed to allow you to show your mastery of the class content, and its grade breakdown has been posted on the course site since before enrollment opened.

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  5. Actual response given this semester:
    I don't talk about grades before the final exam.

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  6. I flat-out tell them that answering this question isn't useful, since you need to do your very best for every final exam you'll ever take, because all too often they turn out to be more difficult than you expect, not more easy. It also helps that I have multiple things due at the end of the semester (final exam plus term paper plus labs, the grades for which I don't get from the lab instructors until the day after the semester ends), so I can't tell them.

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    1. And if they persist and continue to snivel at me, I staple their dicks to the floor. They do stop asking after that.

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  7. I preemptively write their HW average and earlier test grades on their last tests, which are usually given a couple of weeks before the final. This has the advantage they can alert me to any clerical errors. The percentages and grading scale are on the syllabus, and somehow I never get the dumb question.

    Also, the final grade is worth between 30 and 40% of the total score, so they know things are far from over before the final; it could go way up or way down: "well, with a strong final you could still get a C". I need warm bodies taking my final, and no last-minute walk-outs.



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  8. I do what Peter K does, and when I pass the tests back, I put on the board a "magic number." This is the total score-to-date below which they have no chance of passing the course. Besides giving them the chance to alert me to clerical errors, this has the advantage of persuading the hopeless to skip the final exam, so I have fewer to grade.

    Why do you need warm bodies taking your final, Peter, and no last-minute walk-outs?

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