Comments on: Exams during Exam Week? revisited, in which I check my privilege. History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:41:03 +0000 hourly 1 By: Historiann Sun, 13 Dec 2009 17:59:46 +0000 Great point, Sungold.

polisciprof: nice colleages you got there! I haven’t heard of this problem before, but why am I not surprised? I have been approached by students with sob stories about how much work they have due in one particular week, and can’t they get an extension from me please? I always say no, because my deadlines (unlike others imposed by other faculty) are on the syllabus and are therefore known on the very first day of classes. I don’t get the impression they go ask their chem or bio teachers for extensions on their lab reports, etc.

By: Sungold Sun, 13 Dec 2009 17:23:32 +0000 There’s one other way in which privilege enters into the early-exam issue, and that’s the students’ privilege – or lack thereof – which HistoryMaven’s donut story brings to the fore.

Students with shaky finances may be working a job 15 to 20 hours or more per week. They may not be able to cut back their hours when their schoolwork is heavy. Piling exams into the last week of the term will hit them far harder than those students who don’t have money worries.

By: polisciprof Sun, 13 Dec 2009 17:08:02 +0000 Here is another twist on the story… Like Indyanna, I follow our union policy on exams in the last week of classes and during finals week. It is not unusual, however, for a student to ask me to take an exam at a different time because another professor has changed an exam time.

Invariably, the professor who changed the time is male, and I, now being asked to accomodate the student, am female. I’m sure this is another of the problems of being a “nice lady”. It takes a lot for a student (in this case also female) to assert their rights to a fair exam schedule so you go to the most sympathetic prof first, rather than the one who is in the wrong.

By: Historiann Sun, 13 Dec 2009 15:53:09 +0000 HistoryMaven wrote, “I didn’t appreciate, though, the one time some professor from management stopped by and grabbed doughnuts and coffee for himself. Heh. Isn’t that typical, and symbolic of the relationship of the liberal arts to the rest of the university? At Baa Ram U., we’re producing the lion’s share of the FTEs, and someone from Business, Engineering or Education literally barges in an eats our lunch (or breakfast, as it were.)

Sungold, I think you’re right that it’s not contingent faculty but the regular faculty who tend to push the envelope. (After all, regular faculty are much safer if they give an early final, or turn their grades in late, or both.)

By: HistoryMaven Sun, 13 Dec 2009 15:31:07 +0000 When I taught large courses I had a grader or graders now and then. We used rubrics, and I graded my share–usually I graded the comprehensive essay in every exam while the graders took care of the other answers. I was able, then, to look over all the exams for consistency in grading. There have been times, however, where my graders failed to “get it” and I graded everything.

I miss reading week–or even two or three reading days. My last university chucked them before I arrived. Students were stressed to begin with; even several days at the end of the semester would have helped. I made it a practice to feed my students before the final exam–I know, I know, it was expensive and some of my former colleagues thought it cast bad light on them, but the students really appreciated it. (Some of them had no money nor points on their meal cards.) They arrived early to the exam, sat back and had a doughnut or an orange and coffee or milk or juice, and some of the anxiety disappeared. And they felt that somehow making it to the final and finishing the term warranted a celebration.

(I didn’t appreciate, though, the one time some professor from management stopped by and grabbed doughnuts and coffee for himself. He didn’t even flinch when I explained the table full of goodies were for my students and paid for out of my pocket. I decided against telling him he had powdered sugar on his beard.)

The university, in recent years, has come down hard on professors who give their finals in the last week of classes. Classes are required to meet during finals week, so there are more finals given and more upper-division courses having final presentations in that 3-hour time period.

By: Sungold Sun, 13 Dec 2009 02:18:08 +0000 I just finished a three-course quarter with a total of 140 students – and yes, the grading was truly onerous. I did have a grader He is a lovely person but was 100% not up to the job. I ended up doing all the grading for a writing-intensive course with 80 students.

So I’m one of the less-privileged folks. But I still cheered when I saw the preceding post, HIstoriann, because at my institution it’s sure not the contingent faculty who give the early exams. It’s some of the more established folks who jump the gun. This puts the squeeze on the rest of us, whose students are often eager to finish early – never mind that they really need a few more days for studying.

I sometimes think the whole goofy system was set up by folks who give Scantron exams. I can certainly see why people would resort to them.

Anyway, thanks for a couple of thoughtful posts.

By: Historiann Sun, 13 Dec 2009 00:09:40 +0000 16-week semesters here: 15 weeks of instruction, 1 week of exams. It’s about 2 weeks too long, IMHO.

I like this from KoshemBos: “Each exam you write test your ability to write exams. If you not doing it right, (vague language, unclear tasks, too much work,…), then you work grading is harder.” I think that’s exactly right.

human, at most big unis having a graduate student T.A. or grader is pretty standard, especially in lower-level courses. I’ve got a great grader this term–she’s on the same page with me, always, and I trust her judgment. I haven’t had any student complaints about the fairness of either of our grading standards. We have a rubric, so that helps keep everyone on the same page (graders & students alike). And as KoshemBos notes, thinking carefully about paper subjects and exam questions can make for better exams and easier grading.

By: The History Enthusiast Sat, 12 Dec 2009 23:40:07 +0000 My institution has 16 week semesters too! That is just interminably long, and it makes for very tired instructors and students. Instructors like myself get to do all the grading, and normally professors who have TAs or graders don’t do any grading whatsoever. They might look over the exams to see if TAs are being consistent, but even that only happens rarely.

Thankfully we have until just after Christmas to upload our final grades, but I always finish before Christmas because who wants to be worrying about grading during what should be family time!

By: human Sat, 12 Dec 2009 22:54:37 +0000 Historiann – thank you for answering my question. That’s really interesting, about the percentage thing! Clearly there would be advantages to that approach for everyone concerned. Do the students know who is grading their papers? Do they care?

One potential problem I would wonder about is consistency. It can be difficult to get a group of people on the same page about how to grade an essay, even when there is a rubric and all parties are motivated to agree on something (rather than argue just to be obnoxious, which is another fun possibility). But maybe it’s easier when there are only two people and the TA can just pitch any essay that doesn’t obviously fit into the rubric up to the prof. Do you ever have problems with that issue?

By: KoshemBos Sat, 12 Dec 2009 21:30:04 +0000 First reality check: grading exam is monotonic, laborious and depressing. My son, also a prof, and myself agree that in hell you sit all day and grade exams.

In larger classes, one finds a lot of repetition in answers. Students are automatically grouped into a small number of groups with very similar responses in each group. (We see a class partition into distinct groups.) This makes grading much easier.

Each exam you write test your ability to write exams. If you not doing it right, (vague language, unclear tasks, too much work,…), then you worker grading is harder.