March 15, 2009

Clues to the Clueless #16

Posted in clues to the clueless, teaching revelations at 5:53 pm by profart

Hint: If a professor tells the class that the exams suck so bad that everyone needs to rewrite their essay, then maybe it would be a good idea to rewrite your essay. 

One thing I decided a long time ago is that if an entire class fails an exam, or even a single question, the problem is not on the side of the students; I am the one who has done something wrong. Did I forget to go over important information? Did I mis-speak in my lecture? Have I not covered a skill important to completing the task at hand? 

Although I teach art history, I do consider the ability to build an argument in English to be an important skill students are supposed to be learning in my class. So when I get a whole stack of exams which are, for the most part, barely coherent, then I think it is my duty to comment extensively on those essays, and return them to be re-written. Writing is a skill, and no student should leave my class without some improvement in that skill. I the  have to re-grade all those essays. I don’t just tack on some points for completion- I completely re-grade from scratch. 

However, I notice that students generally only grumble when I offer this re-write. Yes, it is more work- but personally, I see it as the work they should have done the first time. The only person really getting “extra” work is me, who now must grade essays for another six hours. And after all, I could just let them all flunk, right? 

If your professor handed you back a failing-level essay and offered you a chance to re-write, complete with comments about what to write, what would you do? 

Apparently, most students would bitch, moan, grind their teeth, and spend the weekend badmouthing the professor to each other and to their friends. I hope at least some of them remember to atually re-write the essay…


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