COM 250 keeps on rocking!

We had a great class today. I was thinking about my friend Matt’s puzzlement at how I “teach” – what is it that I’m “doing” when you are working on a project in class that doesn’t require me to be in the room with you? What I think I’m doing is creating space for student learning. 🙂 Am I delusional?
I’m writing this with an intended audience in my mind: “my” (!) students (they’re becoming co-researchers, so the possessive sounds more awkward even than usual).


The activity was for you to do peer grading. The skill I imagine you were developing was awareness of your own procedural knowledge and its practical application. Our discussion at the end raised the kinds of questions that – I hope! – will help you figure out which kind of knowing you were utilizing (“separate” or “connected”), and if some of the difficulty you had in determining whether your peer had provided a suitable answer or not might have been because of a difference in structures of knowing.
For instance, if you’re a mainly separate knower reading a mainly connected knower’s paper – did you evaluate them based on the difference between you or on the actual content or meaning of their response?
To illustrate the connection, let me categorize how I think your comments about the process (which we could call feedback to me) also discloses information about you by revealing some “data” about your own epistemology.
Subjective knowing:
I don’t have the authority to do this.
I still don’t completely understand it myself. Implication: Therefore I’m unqualifed/unable to evaluate.
Procedural knowing:
Their answers taught me.
What if their answer isn’t exact? separate knowing?
What is the basis for comparison – my own understanding (what I think I know), or the template provided as a guide? connected knowing?
I just matched things up; that seemed to be the most fair. separate knowing?
I’m not sure of my own understanding. Implication: I have to factor this into my feedback.
I keep thinking about what I wrote, and if I was wrong, then my feedback was more harsh.
Some of the points seemed irrelevant, I had to re-read because how they said it is not how I would ever see it. separate knowing?

4 thoughts on “COM 250 keeps on rocking!”

  1. I’m not sure how on target I am about this, but when grading the paper I switched over to my internal “Conflict Mode” (haha) and was a seperate knower. I’ve marked papers before (not too often, but I’ve done it) and fundamentally I seem to be a stickler for the rules… whats RIGHT and whats WRONG? I’m glad you gave us that sheet with the core answers on it because that became my basis for whats RIGHT and WRONG.
    I had a whole process going on. I even marked up my own sheet. I’d read each answer carefully and check off on my sheet which points they hit and then I’d write comments on their paper. After going through the paper a first time grading like a “hard-ass” I would re-read each answer carefully as a connected knower and try to see how they came about those points that were not mentioned on your sheet. If it didn’t relate at all to anything I had included in my own paper, I would then put myself in their shoes and try to imagine myself reading the article again and seeing if I could understand why they would write such a thought. Were they merely “BS-ing”?
    I read their paper critically a third time to see if I missed anything that might have been RIGHT and also to see if my comments and assigned numerical points were valid. I can’t say I was comfortable giving the grade I did, but at the moment if I gave any more, it would have been a sympathy grade. I guess that’s what happens when professors make curves.
    I know that some (seperate knowing) professors have a specific set of written core ideas they base their grading of an essay on, and I’ve been in situations where I’ve only received 0 points for my ideas. Of course it made me feel worthless and not RIGHT, but I’ll accept that I misinterpreted the information… IF there is a valid explanation of why what I wrote was completely off (some answers allow room for interpretation, others do not).
    Just makes me wonder though… we had almost a full 50 minutes to grade this paper. If I were forced to do this in 30 minutes or had 2 hours to do this, how would that have affected the grading?

  2. and after some more wondering… how would grading have been different if I were given a large stack of these to grade? if there was a trend of WRONG responses? some professors do comparison grading… is that a type of knowing?
    Do professors take a course entitled, “Ethics II: How To Grade Papers” before they become professors?? Haha…

  3. Hey Jamie, you’v done a great job laying out what was up for you during this activity! You’ve also identified many of the ethical challenges teachers face with the whole activity of grading. I’m sure someone has engaged in deliberate debate about the pros/cons and ethical dimensions of the act of assigning a grade in and of itself but I’ve not ever come across it in any formal way. Only in informal “complaint sessions” with peers. Maybe some education programs do delve into this and help thier trainees develop an ethics of grading. Hmm. It makes me think that perhaps the reason standardized testing is so big, along with other tests that assess a student’s ability to memorize and regurgitate is because these kinds of tests AVOID any of the “interpretation” you mentioned. So the teacher ALSO isn’t really called upon to think. !!!

  4. From one of the lectures in my Management class, I learned they continue to do these types of standardized testing because the results have a direct correlation with the future performance of those students. As a result, they find these tests are useful in labeling a student (so-to-speak). The problem with this is that some students have financial difficulties that hinder their degree of preparation. It costs money to buy those practice books and to enroll in a prep class. So are these tests really fair? I’ve just gone off into a new topic.
    Getting back on track… I think if all professors and teachers graded the same exact way, there would still be some sort of disagreement about the process. No matter what, people are always complaining about something. I think it’s good that each professor’s style of grading is characteristic of them. It might not directly related to their style of teaching (for example: lax intruction and lax grading), but I think it relates to what they want the students to learn/get out of the class. I am aware this assumption may be wrong though… afterall, YOU are the professor 🙂

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