Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Wiggle Room

Rarely is the question asked, how is our university students learning?

True or False? The theory of anthropogenic climate change attributes the greenhouse effect to the unregulated proliferation of green houses.

On the final exam, nine out of twenty students in the upper-division university labour and the environment course answered "true."

So far this semester, I've had six requests for reconsideration of grades. One student was "frustrated" that she only got a B- on her paper instead of an A because she hadn't gotten a B- since first year and her writing has improved since then. She pointed out that if I just set aside what I knew about the topic and "kept an open mind" using her definition of key terms, her paper made sense.

Another student asked for an A- instead of a B+ because he rarely got A's. A third student was upset that he got a B- instead of a B because his low grade point average meant he had to get all B's in the last three semesters to be eligible to graduate. He thought with a small wiggle his B- could become a B.

Rarely is the question asked, do they care about their grades or do they care about learning something about the subject?

6 comments:

CZHA said...

"Rarely is the question asked, do they care about their grades or do they care about learning something about the subject?"

Will this be on the test?

Larry Signor said...

Aw, sounds like a trick question to me. They probably thought the question referred to green colored houses as opposed to white colored houses. Don't profs give an F anymore?

Sandwichman said...

"Don't profs give an F anymore?"

Will this be on the test?

Larry Signor said...

Wonderful riposte, as the Turtle used to say "Touche".

G said...

In fairness to them, the first time I read: "True or False? The theory of anthropogenic climate change attributes the greenhouse effect to the unregulated proliferation of green houses."

...I thought it said the proliferation of green house gases. Which sounds more reasonable. The mind is terrible at unwanted pattern matching and fill in gaps whn thy shldnt

Sandwichman said...

Good point, G. See the classic 1949 article by Jerome Bruner and Leo Postman,
"On the Perception of incongruity: a Paradigm."

Coincidentally, I described the incongruity experiment to the class two weeks before the exam.