Blog period 1, 2013

The biggest dilemma in Higher Education is to know how hard to stretch students. Students, their past and future families and society as a whole pay for College so students get extended. But how far should we academics stretch them? Increasingly, I think we need to set a bar high enough to make a real difference but not so high that the students get disillusioned by failure. And to do that, we need to ensure that the students know our high expectations and have the resources and help to surpass them. We cheat everyone otherwise. 

All very easy in theory. Sadly, inspire as much as we try, I think the only real driver that makes most students stretch is grades. Blog period 1 is where the rubber meets the road as they say, or where my teaching ‘philosophy’ clashes with the expectations of many of my students….

Average grade 62%. Among those who did anything, the average was 73%, and among those who made more than a trivial effort, the average was 78%, in line with the performance this time last year
Three students got A-, 3 got B+ and 25 students got a B. The remainder breaks down as: B-, 23; C+, 46; C, 18; D, 12; Fail, 45, including 27 who did not participate at all.
There were some really good posts (classical music & studying, immunity and berries, night owls, and anxiety and modern technology). But overall, most of the work was pretty mediocre. I worry that the Facebook generation is not used to the idea of serious work being posted on line. I also worry that students look at on-going work on the blog and assume that is what we are looking for, rather than looking at examples I have given of previous good practice. 
Students: if you are not happy with your grade, by all means talk to me about it. But first, check out the many resources on the site — examples of previous good practice, words of wisdom from your TAs and TAs from previous years — and have a good look at the grading rubric (syllabus) and the personalized feedback on Angel (Course>Refresh>Digital Expression>Grades>Report>Run). Reflect, and then stretch. You can be your own best teacher.

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