Academic "Encouragement" Policies

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Academic "Encouragement" Policies

Unread postby Rhiannon » Thu Mar 06, 2003 4:32 am

I'm curious as to everyone's experience with and feelings about certain classroom policies that are designed to encourage or help the less dedicated students in a class get better grades and improve their performance.

The main one of these policies is grade curving. Some teachers curve by the median grade in the class, some curve by the highest grade on down. Obviously the median grade is a safer curve for students, because some students are extremely bright, and can get a score that sends the rest of the curve off balance (for instance, one 91 when the second highest score is 67).

Personally, curving has come to my advantage very rarely, and I still see curved classes turn out a great amount of Ds and Fs.

Another policy I find disturbing is daily quizzes. Right now, I'm attending a community college, and two of my classes are employing this tactic to encourage timely and regular attendance. Certainly, this can "reward" dedicated students and punish those who don't want to come to class every day. But what about days when a good student is sick? I've missed 15 points in one class and 20 in another because I've been absent because I was too ill to even drive in to school, much less try to attend class feeling that way. Now while I'm an A student, in one of these classes, my grade might become threatened to a B if I don't do extra credit.

I'm a very dedicated student, and I feel that students should be as dedicated as I am. But when it becomes a punishment that I take days off because I'm too sick to come to class, that's when it worries me. Right encouragement, wrong way.

Extra credit of course, is the third main policy I see being a problem. Many classes offer enough extra credit to permit a student to make up an entire test's worth of points if they're willing to go do something on one or two weekends that ends up taking considerably less work than the test would (though usually more time). Extra credit has come to a small benefit for me, but usually only to make up for lost points due to daily quizzes.

Are there any other policies you've come across in academic pursuits like this? And how do you feel about these policies, which cater to the less dedicated student?
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Unread postby Shi Jing Xu » Thu Mar 06, 2003 12:18 pm

In most cases, I thank God for the policies you have proposed. I, too, have missed days from school which threaten lower grades (not this year...I would really pay for it!).

Extra Credit, to me is a good thing. The dedicated students will (IMO) do it to higher their A or bring it up to an A. The lazy students on the other hand, won't do it all. I have only really had extra credit in 2 classes out of the 2 years I've been in High School. I did it for both. For one thing, the extra credit in Algebra REALLY helped. For Honors Biology, it helped 3rd quarter (plants..-_-;.). Extra credit is a good thing.

About curving the grade, I only remember doing that once since I have go to High School. It was about..3 weeks ago in my Honors Chemistry class, and it didn't help me at all. I still had a C on that test. I honestly don't see the point in curving. Maybe if it was a test the teacher knew everyone would do bad on, but not just a regular chapter test. If you didn't study, that's you own fault.

Something I do have a problem with, is taking a test when you have missed a few days. Example:

My friend was at school for the first day of the chapter and missed all the other days because of illness. When she returned, she had to take the Chemistry test the same day with all of us, dispite her absenses. We can all guess how her night before the test went. This I think is not right. If a person has been absent, how can a teacher expect this student to cram it all in there the night before the test? Especially for what we were learning at the time.
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Unread postby Tianshan Zi » Thu Mar 06, 2003 2:53 pm

Until the United States abandons the absurd notion that everyone needs a university education, then we will see these sorts of disturbing trends. Until a truly acceptable alternative course of study (greater support and validation of trade schools, business schools away from the university setting, validation and standardization of on-site apprenticeships, etc.), the "best" jobs, in general, will continue to require a university-level education of even the worst of students who are simply interested in jumping through the required hoops and expect to have their hands held through the entire experience.

Okay, I've finished one of my rare tirades! :lol:
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Unread postby Rhiannon » Fri Mar 07, 2003 6:21 pm

Tianshan Zi, I agree whole heartedly about that... university educations are truly worthless now a days. Oh, certainly they cost money, and they're necessary to get into a job market, but that's a self-perpetuating lie of necessity. I still would like to know why one has to go to a special school for being a librarian, haha. And I think that one should be able to do self-studies, pay for an exam, and earn a college degree by doing so. I'd much rather study at home than go to classes each day.
But, what a tirade that one is...hahaha.

I think it's fair to have everyone take a test on the same day, Shi Jing Xu. For one thing, it's a protection against cheating, by keeping the person from finding out the answers from other students. For another though, any person can put in the hard work, even when absent and sick, to be caught up in the class without attending. It's the student's responsiblity to learn, more than it is the teacher's responsibility to teach. The teacher is basically there to help guide the student in their learning and to answer questions that they may have. The student can learn with or without that guidance.

You'll find a lot of curving happens in college; high school tends not to do it often. I rarely have a non-curved class in college. It disturbs me that a test that I should have gotten around 90 on, I only got 67 on -- and I got an A+ on that test because of a curve. There was no reason for me or anyone else in the class to not get higher, other than lack of studying.

I can stand extra credit if it's reasonable and limited. It's when it can make up the entirity of a 100 point test or speech that it begins to bother me.
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Unread postby Seven at One Stroke » Sat Mar 15, 2003 1:21 am

Regarding curves, in my experience teachers curve using the mean and the standard deviation, which in my opinion is the most appropriate method of curving the test in a way that actually means something mathematically. Like one of my professors said, "it's not about how good you know the material, only how well you compete with other students."

As for daily quizzes, I think it is a very effective tool to ensure that people do the reading, thinking and exercising that is required for the class to function. I think everyone has had the experience when an instructor is ready for a lively discussion but only very few students actually have a clue about the school material. As a result there was no real discussion and students were not able to learn as much as they would have if they had done what was required. I think quizzes, pop quizzes are fair game as long as they are not unusually specific or marginally related to the material (like what did the instructor wore yesterday). If a student is sick, the instructor should allow some leeway like drop one or two scores because it's unavoidable. If a student is constantly sick then some type of medical proof is needed, like a doctor's note or some such.

I hate extra credits with a passion. I think every student should have equal oppurtunity to get the grade that they deserve, without having to sacrifice time from their own life to appease the teacher. If something is going to be weighed in the grade then everybody should have a chance to do it. In my experience, a lot of the so-called extra credit assignments are very unfair because they can only be carried out by a few students, and many times how much credit a student gets is unrelated to his/her performance in the subject area. For example, I remember that extra credit was given for students who made better-looking posters in a chemistry class, which is totally unrelated to how much chemistry knowledge that they have.
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Unread postby Tin God » Sat Mar 15, 2003 1:40 am

In regards to daily quizzes, I am fortunate that most of my instructors who have chosen to go that route, also allow for the bottom couple scores to be dropped. This way missing class a few times because of illness is not detrimental. If you go everyday, then you get the luxury of discounting a few "bad" days.

One Academic practice that I hate above all is the Group Project. While I understand the importance of team building and working with others in the world of employment, I contend that this is not an adequate preparation unless you plan to work with a number of co-workers who don't pull their weight or even show up for work.

Now I have had a few good group work experiences, but far more nightmares. I had a final presentation for a Networking class where 3 of the 5 students in our group did not even bother to show up for it. Of course, they had about half the work, which we were assured would be finished and ready to go that morning.

The instructor took a little sympathy on the two of us who did our share and showed up, but we still suffered deflated grades based on the irresponsibility of others.
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Unread postby Shi Jing Xu » Sat Mar 15, 2003 9:15 pm

I also hate group projects. I have had many projects like this, and one of two things always happen. One, we will have assigned groups and no one does anything because they don't want to talk to the others. Or two, we won't have assigned groups and I'll get together with my friends and they will talk the whole time.

During the first situation, I have found myself assuming leadership in order to get the project going. I never come out and say "I'm the leader", but I at least get them going. In the second situation, I find myself doing much of the work. Now, I must tell the truth: I enjoy doing the work in most cases. I honestly hate working with other people on projects because I want it done my way, or else I feel it's wrong. :x
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Unread postby Rhiannon » Sat Mar 15, 2003 10:19 pm

Group projects are yes, absolutely hazardous. Luckily they improve 10 fold in college for the most part, but...ugh. Try getting a group together in college outside of class. I prefer independence. I can work fine with others, I know how to work in a group setting. The problem is, those people in the group haven't learned individual responsibility yet.

Oh, and I learned to never count on friends for group projects either. I had one "friend" ask her boyfriend to do her work...and you can guess whose half of the project hadn't even been done come the day of our presentation.

I like daily quizzes because they do help keep you on track and tempo with a course, especially if there's not regular graded homework due. But I feel that they should either carry a very light weight in grading, be ungraded entirely, or as you suggested, drop a few low scores for absence's sake. I realize that attendance is crucial to a class, but why should an otherwise A+ student be punished because they have frequent migraines, for instance? I dunno, I swear sometimes teachers forget what it's like to be sick and be in class.

YD, the curves I'm usually subjected to are top score-bottom score curves. Occassionally I'll get a teacher who knows how to do the mean/standard deviation curve, but not very often.

But why should a student be pampered through with curves, extra credit, and quizzes that make sure they're on pace with the syllabus? You don't need any of those things to excel in a class.
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Unread postby Harimau » Sun Mar 16, 2003 2:17 am

Wild-Eyes wrote:Group projects are yes, absolutely hazardous. Luckily they improve 10 fold in college for the most part, but...ugh. Try getting a group together in college outside of class. I prefer independence. I can work fine with others, I know how to work in a group setting. The problem is, those people in the group haven't learned individual responsibility yet.


It depends on who you are working with. If you get to choose who you do it with, its actually quite ok.


YD, the curves I'm usually subjected to are top score-bottom score curves. Occassionally I'll get a teacher who knows how to do the mean/standard deviation curve, but not very often.

But why should a student be pampered through with curves, extra credit, and quizzes that make sure they're on pace with the syllabus? You don't need any of those things to excel in a class.


The principle behind it is simple. Unless they want to do it manually, a scientific calculator can do the job easily. The Bell Curve is shifted from whathever the raw mark was to what the desired average is by changing the marks of each person so that their averages will become the new average.
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Unread postby Seven at One Stroke » Sun Mar 16, 2003 5:19 pm

Wild-Eyes wrote:YD, the curves I'm usually subjected to are top score-bottom score curves. Occassionally I'll get a teacher who knows how to do the mean/standard deviation curve, but not very often.

There are software programs out there that they use for curving the score. My dad once told me a primitive, but very easy way to curve scores. First make the score out of 100, take the square root and times ten. Viola!
Wild-Eyes wrote:But why should a student be pampered through with curves, extra credit, and quizzes that make sure they're on pace with the syllabus? You don't need any of those things to excel in a class.

Extra credit often acts as some sort of 'stimulant' to make people more passionate about the subject, although it rarely works. I think I've already posted my view on quizzes. They are their to ensure that people do keep up with the class, many times the class functions as a whole (in discussions), therefore it is very important that each and every student participates. It is not about raising the score or punishing people, but to ensure that people learn what they should learn.

Curving the test is somewhat different. I think having a curve more accurately gauges the performance of the students as a group. Sometimes the teacher doesn't explain things very well, or other times the course material and the tests are not on the same level, or perhaps there just weren't enough time on the tests, etc. All these factors can lower the students' grades but it's not technically their fault. I think curves just take out these 'noise' factors.
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