Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The time-traveling student
My student was upset. I had posted a grade breakdown on the classroom bulletin board. She was not pleased with what she saw.
“Dr. Z, why do I have only 64% for my quiz score?”
“I'm not sure, Iris. Let's check.”
I flipped open my gradebook. (Yeah, I still keep a hard copy gradebook. My students' scores are not solely entrusted to digital form.) I ran my finger down the column till I found the line for Iris's scores.
“Okay,” I said. “You missed a couple of the quizzes and got zeros for them.”
“I thought I only missed one,” replied Iris.
“No, you missed the first quiz and the seventh quiz.”
“The first one?”
“Yes, remember? That was the one I actually sent out by e-mail to everyone on the enrollment roster on the first day of class.”
“Well, I couldn't do that one. I didn't have e-mail.”
“Iris, all students have e-mail. You got a campus e-mail address when you enrolled and your student information packet explained how to check your e-mail in the library or student center if you didn't have a computer to check it at home.”
“I didn't know that,” she said, defensively.
“It's not really an issue, Iris. I also handed out a hard copy of that quiz in class on the first day. You certainly got that along with the syllabus.”
“Oh,” she said, in a very small voice.
“Okay, let's not make too much of it. You need to do a better job of scanning the materials you receive from the college or from your instructor, but my gradebook says your quiz score is actually 80%, not 64%.”
“No, Dr. Z, it definitely says 64% and I want to know why.”
I pondered for a moment.
“Did you look at the right entry? Are you using the correct student ID number?”
Iris told me the number she had used. It was the right one. I was puzzled. I flipped my gradebook around so that she could see it and pointed at her entry.
“See, Iris? You have 80% for quizzes right now.”
“But you posted 64% up on the bulletin board!”
“There it is, Iris. Eighty percent!”
Iris scowled in exasperation. She reached for the gradesheet and flipped it up.
“There!” she said. “See? It says sixty-four!”
I gave her a long look and took a deep breath.
“Iris, that's the old gradesheet I posted a couple of weeks ago. You did have only 64% then. You currently have 80%.”
She let go of the top sheet, letting it fall back down over the one it had concealed.
“So I shouldn't look at the one underneath?”
“Only if you want to see how much your score has changed since the last grade report. That's why I left it up.”
“You see? You've improved quite a bit since the previous report. Maybe you're smarter than you think.”
Finally she smiled.
But maybe not, I thought to myself.