Thursday, June 13, 2013

Emergency Thirsty: Boost or Boot?

There is no "Emergency
Thirsty" graphic, mostly
because there's no such thing
as an "Emergency Thirsty."
But, shit, we like P. Galore,
and she deserves a graphic
no matter what.
Quiet Quinn was absent two weeks at a time, twice, and late most other days.

When Quinn was there, Quinn sat in the front row and murmured questions and lengthy comments to me, even when I would say things like, "Could you please speak up? This isn't a private conversation. Please let everyone hear what you're saying."

Quinn failed to submit three assignments, and did steadily worse on exams over the semester.

Quinn chose not to write the optional essay on the final exam.

Quinn is 0.1 percentage point away from a C.

Quinn wants to major in my program.

I am the only instructor for this class.

Q: Do I give Quinn the boost that Quinn so sorely does not deserve, just to avoid a boomerang in my class next fall? Or do I give Quinn the boot in the hope of providing a wake-up call and realistic discouragement from pursuing my field?

39 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I think I might pair up with you and ask you to share.

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  2. Boot.

    The failure to submit assignments really does it for me. Absences are bad enough by themselves, but not doing the work itself means that the student simply hasn't fulfilled the basic requirements of the course.

    My syllabus tells students that, if they fail to submit an assignment, not only will they miss out on the points for that assignment, but will suffer a further penalty on their overall course grade.

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  3. I say boot the bitch. If she comes back crying to you about it, tell her to take her shit to Dr. Phil.

    P.S. Why are there girls sucking on dildos in the advertisement column?

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    1. I'm assuming, of course, that Quinn is a female-name as it sounds as such, and not out of masochism.

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    2. it depends on what other websites you've been reading, you naughty hologram you.

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    3. I chose "Quinn" as gender-neutral and avoided using personal pronouns. Could be a female first name or anybody's last name. It's interesting that you assumed Quinn was female and Beaker Ben assumed Quinn was male.

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    4. I vote to not call a female student a "bitch."

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  4. "Do nothing" It's what Quinn would do.

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  5. Personally, I'd do nothing and let someone higher up worry about whether Quinn should pass or fail.

    At the place I used to teach at, there was a policy that if a student's grade in a course was between 47 and 49%, it could be raised to 50% at the instructor's discretion.

    At first, I raised them, but I felt guilty about allowing some students to pass who I knew clearly should have failed. Eventually, I just submitted the grades as they were and let the department head take the responsibility for passing any or all who fell into that grey area.

    I know some of my colleagues got around that problem by being tougher in their marking, thereby ensuring that those students would get 46% or less.

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  6. Please boot. I sorely understand the temptation of letting him slide but consider another possible outcome if you give Quinn a D. He switches majors.

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    Replies
    1. That was part of the equation (discouraging Quinn from my major). I had to weigh the risk of facing Quinn for another semester against the benefit of losing Quinn to a different program.

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    2. Higher numbers of majors are valuable but at some point, the bean counters must consider quality of majors. If he stayed, he would probably fail more classes, taking longer than usual to graduate. By getting rid of him now, you're lowering your "time to graduation" metric.

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  7. @ RGM, whoever that may be today: Aww, you like me. You really like me! (Thanks for the graphic and for letting "emergency thirsty" slide.)

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  8. Thanks, everybody! The verdict is unanimous. Boot (to the head) it is.

    I had already entered the grade before I wrote, but was, like, feeling all, "Just 0.1 point off; is this really fair?" But with your moral support, I will gracefully let the brief window of grade corrections expire.

    Followup little thirsties (sips, if you will): 1. Does anyone else think the troll named Monica would have had a different opinion?

    2. Did anyone else think, but refrain from saying, that my thirsty was ironic considering the discussions we've been having this week?

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    Replies
    1. Whoa there, Proffie. We said "boot," not "stiletto."

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    2. Just paying homage to Dr. Demento. We gymnast/pilots don't wear heels.

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    3. In the 1980 Star-Wars ripoff "Starcrash" the shero, Stella Star, seemingly magically switches from heels to flats during a fight scene, and then back into heels when the scene is over. But then, they have technology even more advanced than in "Moonraker," such as torpedoes that crash through spacecraft windows, and men jump out of them.

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    4. How could I have missed "Starcrash"? Is there a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 treatment?

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    5. There isn't, which is too bad because "Starcrash" certainly deserved one. If it's any consolation, Caroline Munro, who played Stella Star, went on to become a Bond girl (the helicopter-flying maniac in "The Spy Who Loved Me."

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    6. There isn't, which is too bad because "Starcrash" certainly deserved one. If it's any consolation, Caroline Munro, who played Stella Star, went on to become a Bond girl (the helicopter-flying maniac in "The Spy Who Loved Me."

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  9. Base your decision on whether you take grading error into account. Even the best of us make mistakes while grading, and thus, it's fair to allow a fudge factor of some sort when assigning final grades.

    In your case, do you allow for grading error by rounding up? If not, and your cutoff for a C is a hard 70%, then you might consider starting to round up and giving Quinn the C.

    If you do take grading error into account by rounding up, but Quinn's grade is still outside the cutoff that you've established, whether the cutoff be 69.0%, 69.5%, 69.9%, or 69.95%, then t'hell with her/him/it. Tell Quinn to have a D-lightful summer.

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    Replies
    1. Yes! That was my quandary and solution. My syllabus actually uses the phrase "fudge factor" for this situation, and I use that in addition to rounding up as a habit on every assignment. (That lets me take off half points for spelling and lack of detail. I tell the little dears that if they lose 1/2 point once, it will get rounded back in, but if they lose 1/2 point here and 1/2 point there, it adds up.)

      For example, Lackadaisical Lou finishes with 79.5% and automatically gets a B. Bust-Ass Bob finishes with 79.1%, so I look at the details. He did every assignment, visited office hours for help, used the tutoring center, attended every class, and never once grubbed for a grade. My adding one measly point (in 500) gives him the fudge factor boost for a B.

      Quiet Quinn was at 69.4% (after roundups on every assignment that totaled something.5,) so he/she/it was within the fudge factor potential. But, as spelled out in the syllabus, students need to show that they deserve the fudge factor by arriving on time regularly, demonstrating effort, and not behaving as if they're the only student in the classroom.

      Consequences are D-lightful indeed.

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  10. Every time I have done this in the past, I've lived to regret it. Give Quinn that well-deserved D, and hope it serves as a wake-up call. If Quinn comes to you in a fit, say, "if it isn't a 70.0, it isn't a C." Also, have another look at your syllabus, in order to check whether failing to turn in assignments can be penalized more.

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  11. Give him the D. And I am wondering, can you place a higher emphasis on attendance? Does anyone here do that? I do it, because we can at my college. Attendance can be a percentage of the grade. I have both factored in attendance, and not. Last semester I was in an "On" cycle and it worked pretty well. I have, of course, the added factor that over the years, several of my students have been involved in legal matters that required their needing an alibi. My regular little marks next to their names (a check if they are there, a circle if they are not, a line through that circle if they come in late) have proven useful in that regard for them. Yes, I did say several. Hey, it's where I work.

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  12. I never, never let my students see the fudge factor. If they bother, they can calculate their own grade; most of them don't.

    My unwritten policy is that I will almost always round up borderline grades that would result in not meeting the department grade minimum. The (rare) times that I don't do it are the result of blatant blowing-off of course requirements and attendance.

    But other borderline grades are rounded only if, in my opinion, the student deserves it. It happens more often than not; I'm an old softie that way. But it's not guaranteed.

    And it never goes in the syllabus.

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    1. This pretty much describes my policy. I actually do a certain amount of curving/rounding, usually after sorting the number grades in order, so that I'm applying the same standards to everyone. I do have grades for participation (the closest we can get to attendance) and penalties for lateness on some things "baked in," so those practices do affect the final grade (and I'd rather trust the cumulative effect of day-to-day records than my overall impression of a student's degree of involvement).

      And I'd never, never write "fudge factor," or mention rounding, on the syllabus. If you're going to be kind/flexible, do it silently or orally (with a lot of conditionals), or, if absolutely unavoidable (e.g. in an online class), via email (with many, many conditionals). On the syllabus, be (or at least sound) draconian.

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  13. There's enough subjectivity in grading writing assignments that I would give the C. It's easier then dealing with the grade appeal and I'm too old to give a shit about after semester drama.

    That said, I was responsible for having an international student lose her student visa. The long list of empty spaces on the grade sheet meant the chair supported the 49% without questions.

    I also cut a student slack because she was dealing with a learning disability, a bad divorce, a slight drug problem, and mental health issues. She got the needed help with all those issues and graduated with a very high GPA.

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  14. It depends on how many assignments you have (perhaps the three were small ones, and there Quinn did hand in 3x or 4x as many similar assignments?), but, if it's possible not to hand in 3 assignments at all and still pass, it strikes me that you might need to adjust the grading weights a bit. But I realize fiddling with weights gets tricky; however I adjust mine, I always find myself with a few outcomes that don't seem quite right from a holistic viewpoint, though they're correct mathematically (and, similarly, the majority of the results usually look just about right).

    Some schools do, also, allow the "you must complete all major assignments to pass" rule; some don't.

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    1. Our labs are integrated into the lecture courses; so we have a department-wide requirement that students complete a minimum number of lab experiences, including the report. If they don't do so, the course grade is lowered after the missing lab(s) is(are) scored zero. Miss enough labs, automatic F. I don't care that you aced all the exams.

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  15. When I evaluate grades at the end of a term, I ask myself, "Is there any reason to bump this grade?" If I can't think of a reason, no bump. If Quinn were my student, I would be unable to think of a reason to bump hir grade.

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  16. Addressing some themes in the later comments, I'd start by noting this is an introductory course with mostly non-majors and students who are the first in their families to attempt higher education. Part of my goal is to bring them up to speed with the expectations of college, while still keeping the standards high in this prerequisite to many classes.

    Hence the fudge factor made explicit in the syllabus. Most of us have one, but will students realize that if no one tells them? I want to be transparent that they can increase their chances of success by being polite and demonstrating reliability. If I make it a grade category, then I've got to keep records about behaviors and deal with grade-grubbers haggling over a point.

    Attendance does count for my classes. I'll be tweaking the syllabi this summer so it counts for more.

    How much did the missing assignments cost Quinn? They were low-stakes homework to coach students and assess them on the tougher concepts before exams. Carrots to draw them to office hours if they found out they didn't understand something. Missing three makes it impossible to earn a B, but not impossible to pass.

    Moreover, I don't accept assignments after the beginning of class, and Quinn was late a lot, as I mentioned. Imposing a further penalty for missed assignments when students may have done them but got to class late, seems like an invitation for complaints to the dean.

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  17. How is it possible that a flake is even passing after missing 4 weeks of class, being late to most other classes, and not completing all of the assignments? Bumping the grade down to an F seems like the best option.

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  18. Yeah, I'm with Flower Snark! Nobody could pass a class of mine with that kind of record, since I have daily in-class writing for points, and yes I do bump things down a third of a grade if they come in after the 10-minutes-late grace period, and a full grade down for every 24-hour period after class ends. Even then, students have once or twice complained that my grace period, drop lowest quiz score, and paltry one or two low-points extra credit assignments are "enabling the slackers," and they may be right.

    I think about it this way: how does Quinn compare to that not-very-bright student who busted ass for their C? How would he or she feel knowing someone with Quinn's record got the same grade?

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