Thursday, May 14, 2015

the tension mounts

I gave my students a brief demo of a truncated pecha-kucha presentation, showing them tricks for how to keep time when their PowerPoint slides are set to auto-advance every twenty seconds (have a sense of your slides' content and for how much you can say in twenty seconds; use the second hand on the wall clock to keep time; make it easier on yourself by starting your spiel the moment the second hand is pointing straight up at the 12). I also showed them how they could "cheat" by sticking a little "next" sign in the bottom-right corner of each slide as a reminder of what the next slide's content would be (e.g., "Next: European Food").

My 3PM students "ooh"ed and "aah"ed appropriately as they watched me transition smoothly from slide to slide without a hitch, but they nodded thoughtfully after I explained the tricks I'd been using. I also showed them, once again, Canadian Shawn Kanungo's excellent pecha-kucha (see it here on YouTube), which is a great resource for learning about things like timing, humor, and how to compose a proper PowerPoint slide (i.e., not only a few words per image).

I also explained the brutal scoring system in detail: 10 points to be awarded by the teacher, 5 points to be awarded by the students. The kids took it all in stride. I can only hope they've prepped well (I know that many, if not most, of them have waited until the last moment to prep their presentations... the young never learn from the mistakes of the old).

We'll see what happens, I suppose. Next week is going to wreak havoc on most of my students' averages—not because I want this to happen, but because the students' grades must fit a school-sanctioned curve. The students are fully aware of this, of course, so naturally they're uneasy. I'm thinking to myself, though, that it might be better to pull everyone too low: it's easier to raise grades, at the end, than to cut grades down.



  1. I brought this up on Althouse when she was talking about their grade curve and never got a satisfactory answer, hon.

    Can you please tell me what prompted this whole curve thing? It's been quite a few years since school for me. I just cannot wrap my inner Spock around why a curve is necessary. Isn't a grade just a grade? Why force an artificial and incorrect number on a student?



  2. Annie,

    The best answer I can come up with is the one that was given to me long ago: grading curves are in place to prevent grade inflation, i.e., too many "A"s in a given class. Somehow, the thinking goes, a well-taught class with students who represent a bell curve of ability levels and aptitude ought to result in a bell-curve distribution of grades at the end of the semester. If this doesn't happen, then something must be wrong: the teacher made the tests (or the course itself) too easy or too difficult, something was rigged, etc. This doesn't allow for the distinct possibility that a class might actually be filled with really talented students.

    Anyway, the curve attempts to correct grade inflation (which is a legitimate concern: profs are often tempted to give high grades and/or conduct easy classes so as to receive high evaluation scores from their students, thus perpetuating their careers), but in doing so, it wrecks just about everything else, in my opinion.



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