Friday, May 23, 2014

Grading, Cheating, Teacher-Student Perceptions

What to do when a student complains?

It's a good thing my students for the most part don't know English and don't read blogs. I don't like grading, not so much as the actual work of it, which would be a lot more difficult if I wrote detailed comments in Mongolia but as it is I tend to simply assign numbers because I don't really have the facility to write detailed feedback, but I don't like the whole process. In my opinion most grading doesn't grade much anyway. Perhaps in other areas, yes, but in the humanities it would be far more valuable to assess students verbally and on-goingly without assigning numbers and letters.

But alas, such is not my situation, I must assign grade, my class grade must constitute 50% exams, and I must grade to a system in which 65% is a pass, and grade-inflation is rampant. The scale is definitely shifted here from what I am comfortable with, as students regularly receive grades in the 90-100 range when I would almost never assign such a grade to begin with.

Also there are a host of cultural issues going on here. Firstly, teachers are much respected. The teacher-student relation is a clear one of power and respect. However this does not always play out in expected ways. Students' success is seen as Teachers' responsibility. This is widespread, and I do not accept it. Also, in broader society, cheating and plagiarism are rampant and normalised. Within my own class I have had plagiarism on at least one assignment. Partly this is due to there being no practice, format, or awareness of good attribution practices, partly I suspect it is cultural norms at play.

Students, in general, expect and receive high grades, which only feeds a sense of superiority and entitlement. I have had students directly say to me, "Teacher, please give full marks, I need it." I'm not sure how much they 'meant' this in a Western sense, but being directly approached and asked for marks is, for me, an unsettling situation (which request I disregarded and promptly marked as normal).

All of which feeds my current dilemma. Two students of mine complained that their marks, in the mid-high 70s, were insufficient. They also claim that other students did not complete work properly, and that everybody else cheated on the exam.

These are pretty serious allegations, but I am not sure how much they realise this. They have said they are offended by their grades, that they never received a C before, that I should at least give a B. So it seems to me they just want some better grades. To be honest, if I were marking this particular course in a Western institute at this level, I would probably have failed every student already.

At present I am formulating a response. I want to lay out a clear path for genuine complaint, to ensure academic fairness and standards, to make clear that complaint and offense will not lead to improved grades, and to lay to rest this pointless desire for more imaginary points for vapour-like prestige.

1 comment:

kristan said...

On my stint on a certain island, one of my roles was to moderate some of the marked essays by a particular lecturer. What I discovered was poor marking - which seemed to pay no heed to any particular criteria, and which overlooked clear instances of plagiarism.

When I tried to have this sorted out, the cultural issues played in seriously - the lecturer had been faithfully lecturing even when essentially the college had decayed into non-existence, and was a local rather than a foreigner. On these grounds, at the risk of offence, these marking issues were never taken up.

I sympathise with your frustrations.