Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The time-traveling student

Backward, turn backward

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.”

She frowned.

“But you posted 64% up on the bulletin board!”

I followed her to the back of the room and the bulletin board where the gradesheet was posted. I found the line with her ID number and ran my finger across to her quiz score.

“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.


Megan said...

I've had similar experience with my students, so it's not just yours!

I post pdf files of student scores after each exam/quiz on my course webpages. I have learned that I have to delete the old one even if the date and number of exams/quizzes is clearly labeled, or students freak out that they don't have a score for Exam 3 (for example), when looking at the Exam 2 file. The fact that *no one* has an Exam 3 score, and that in fact there isn't even a column for it doesn't seem to connect.

Bob Becker said...

In 41 years of teaching American history at three ESUs [Enormous State Universities], the most frequent answer to questions I got in class was "It's on the syllabus." When's the next exam? "It's on the syllabus." How much do quizzes count? "It's on the syllabus." Can we take make-up exams if we miss one? "It's on the syllabus." What grade to I need on the final to make a C in the course? "It's on the syllabus." Do we have to read the required readings? "It's on the syllabus--- and yes, you do."

Occasionally the questions were interspersed with "Syllabus? I don't think I got one." That usually during finals week. Of course.

For a couple of terms I tried making reading the syllabus the first assignment, with quiz to follow. It matter not a whit.