Welcome to How Do You Learn? Research Project. The project will outline my concerns about the use of rubrics for English, literature, and writing courses. I believe that rubrics are a necessary component for standardized testing but not for content-based writing within the academic environment. This section collectively represents the research problem.
In any class, for a particular assignment, a student can achieve a solid “A,” and possibly 100 percent completion, when students’ responses mirror the assignment. For example, the Grit Essay assignment for my English 1301 class begins by transitioning students from narrative writing we might see at the high school level to quote integration, synthesis, analysis, and critical thinking.
Students are required to integrate specific source materials that support the topic. They are also expected to follow a specific structure. See English Syllabus-Comp I tab on this site for more information.
To receive full points consideration, the following must be present in the students’ essays:
Full exploration is defined as an above minimum level demonstration of understanding the concept of the material and not a demonstration of understanding that suggests that students only need a quote or two to earn the points. Students must fully respond to the writing prompt for full point consideration. A missing required element would render the assignment incomplete and move the student out of a possible point value of 100 to 99 and further below if additional elements are missing.
Responding to the writing prompt in its totality is important for students to understand as they make their way from academic to professional and to personal life. What students learn at the end of a writing assignment is that responsive writing is not just specific to the assessment and feedback from the instructor. They learn that responsive writing is also extended to the practical application of coordinating their own ability with instruction.
They do as they are instructed and the result of what they understand is reflected in the writing.
They reserve the creative license to format an argument and coordinate that effort with an intent to persuade. They also learn that responsive writing is dependent upon their engagement with their own papers and not just the reading text. They are not told how to format; instead, they are instructed in the principles of argumentation.
It is firmly suggested, however, that they use composition principles to create a topic sentence that begins the paragraph, insert a claim on the topic, counter that claim, and rebut the counterclaim. This will help them to be mindful of assessing the papers line by line, paragraph by paragraph, and argument by argument.
A rubric, and possibly coupled with a margin notation on the paper, as well as the grade itself, in this instance, might hinder the student’s post-evaluation critical reading process and prevent students from reassessing their own intent, focus, and development after the return of their papers.
As Maja Wilson suggests in “Responsive Writing: Grades and Rubrics Get in the Way of Creating Better Writers,” “It’s not enough to tell students to make their writing more clear, focused, or engaging—students can’t often do that because they don’t know how, and they don’t really understand how they went astray” (61). Students are left alone to figure out what the rubric and the margin comments mean.
However, when feedback is coupled with instruction, this makes it more sensible for the student to approach their graded and assessed paper, study it for instruction on how to correct for error, and progress in their understanding that writing is about development and about coordinating what you have learned to date with the current assignment and taking knowledge forward into the next assignment. Development is not specific just to one paper.
When a student receives an “A,” it is possible that the student has completed the assignment based upon the qualifying criteria and completion of the requirements for the assignment, but it is also possible that the points earned merely added up to an “A.” It is possible that students do not have an “A” knowledge on the topic. This does not mean that students must know all that they need to know about a topic for a five-page paper.
Students are not writing master’s theses and doctoral dissertations at the first-year composition level. Instructors set the limits and the standards to meet for each assignment, but the “A” is something we have to reconsider as we use grades and feedback to measure progress and any learning gaps the student may exhibit and/or hide from our immediate view and understanding.
This is important to understand because students enter the college composition classroom believing that they are “A” students because of their recent grades in previous classes. They are challenged intellectually at a different level, and when they receive less than an “A,” even an “A-,” their minds cannot reconcile why they are receiving less than a full “A.”
It is what Dweck might deem as a fixed mindset in a student who avoids challenges and risks to maintain performance. The student’s performance is “A,” but there may be a challenge to their mastery of the information. They may have a performance goal orientation and not a learning goal orientation.
Attenweiler and Moore (2006) suggest that that there are two types of goal orientations that focus on one’s general belief about abilities. “A learning goal orientation (LGO) indicates one’s general belief that abilities are malleable and can be developed, an incremental perspective on ability. LGO is frequently referred to as a mastery orientation or a willingness to work to develop” (Attenweiler & Moore, 2006, p. 342). I
n contrast, a performance goal orientation (PGO) is an indicator of one’s belief that abilities are fixed; abilities cannot be changed (Attenweiler & Moore, 2006). “People with a strong PGO tend to see failure as a weakness and stress the importance of short-term performance results” (Attenweiler & Moore, 2006, p. 342).
Individuals with a PGO will often adopt a response pattern that indicates a desire to “demonstrate competence via performance” (Attenweiler & Moore, 2006, p. 343). Individuals with an LGO will adopt an interest in the subject matter, deeming it useful and suggesting to themselves that the subject is worth learning (Attenweiler & Moore, 2006). Individuals with an LGO are interested in increasing their competence (Attenweiler & Moore, 2006).
Individuals and students alike may differ in their responses within an academic context. Their goal orientations may differ based on the goals they set within the academic setting. “Brett and VandeWalle (1999) proposed that dispositional goal orientation, an individual difference, predisposes individuals to adopt different response patterns across situations.
They showed that goal orientation affected goal choices, which then affected performance in an academic setting” (as qtd. In Attenweiler & Moore, 2006, p. 342). This suggests that students may adopt a different goal orientation for different courses and subject matter.
For example, a student may not feel that a non-major course is worth using a learning goal orientation to master the material. Instead, the student might feel that a “passing grade” is sufficient to pass the course and move on to accomplishing major requirements. However, the student who arguably earns an “A” using a performance goal orientation might be confused when that same “A” is not extended to another course, especially if the course is a major requirement.
The student leaves the environment where he or she pursued a performance goal orientation, i.e.., know enough to pass quizzes and tests and the course and not enough to know the material to carry it forward into next levels, with a false understanding that he or she is an “A” student.
The student who exercises a performance goal orientation usually argues that he or she is “motivated by the thought of outperforming my peers” and “I want others to think I am smart” whereas the student who exercises a learning goal orientation is motivated by the thought “I want to learn as much as possible” and “When I fail to complete a difficult task, I plan to try harder the next time I work on it” (Attenweiler & Moore, 2006, p. 345). The idea that merely passing a course is sufficient to move forward challenges the notion of “A” for performers versus “A” for learners.
When a student receives an “A” is part of this research project that deserves further investigation on how students learn, their expectations, and the responses they provide through academic writing.
Last rev. October 31, 2019
Alfie Kohn’s “The Case Against Grades” makes this point clearly. Kohn suggests that “[w]e need to collect information about how students are doing” and we do not always need tests, and grades by default, to share information (233). Kohn explores three reasons why he makes a strong case against grades. Each reason is discussed within their respective sections.
For one, “[g]rades tend to diminish student’s interest in whatever they’re learning. A ‘grading orientation’ and a ‘learning orientation’ have been shown to be inversely related . . .” (Kohn 234). In an age where numbers matter more than comprehension, more students are concerned with the final grade than they are with learning the material. We assess grades in the hopes of students learning from the process that the “80” that they have received translates as knowing only 80 percent of the content.
If a student is okay with this scenario, then there may be different reasons for why they do not push harder to learn 100 percent of the material. For example, the class may not reflect preparation for the major or it is not a major course. In this instance, a “B” for the student is sufficient to keep moving. However, in another scenario, a student might still think a “B” is sufficient when the class is for the major and simultaneously think that it is okay as a final grade on a paper, for example.
What the student fails to understand that any efforts put towards a class in the major should result in a grade that falls within the “A” range just because it is a class in the major, especially when it comes to achieving grades in competitive majors such as business, engineering, science, mathematics, and technology. Regardless, no student should receive lower than an “A-” in a major course.
This means that when a student is focused on learning and retaining the information, it is reflected in the writing of an essay and the application of practical knowledge in other environments. “[T]he more students are led to focus on how well they’re doing, the less engaged they tend to be with what they’re doing” (Kohn 235). The math student in the previous example who achieves a 50, a 76, and then a 90 has progressed in both an understanding of the material and in an understanding that learning is progressive.
Therefore, assessment of the student’s progress should be progressive as well.
Last rev. October 31, 2019
Kohn’s second reason for making a case against grades is that “[g]rades create a preference for the easiest possible task. Impress upon students that what they’re doing will count toward their grade, and their response will likely be to avoid taking any unnecessary intellectual risks” (234). This is problematic on so many levels because we all get students who ask,
This type of question frustrates our teaching objectives and, dare I say, our loyalty to our calling.
We hope for the chance that students will get it! We hope that they will care about their learning, but the academic system is so heavy-laden with attention to the accumulation of numbers that it makes it difficult to teach students how to care about their papers and how to be concerned about their writing. The most we can do is tell them that
Then we stand back and wait for the interest in their eyes.
Instead, we see their eyes glaze over and observe their body language, interpreting both as them suggesting to all of us teachers, so what?
The keyword in Kohn’s quote is “unnecessary.”
This means that students might not find it necessary to pursue intellectual risk. The opposite is true; they might find it necessary to pursue intellectual risk. However, this is only when they are extrinsically motivated. This is an arguable point that should be challenged. “Extrinsic motivation, which includes a desire to get better grades, is not only different from, but often undermines, intrinsic motivation, a desire to learn for its own sake” (Kohn 235).
In a competitive environment, such as business, science, and/or technology, at the upper division level, students may be more extrinsically motivated to achieve a higher grade on all course requirements as well as achieve a higher grade overall in the course. This is usually an “A” to maintain a 4.0 grade point average.
On the other hand, in an environment where individuals are working in their fields, they are more intrinsically motivated to learn while in school because their knowledge later will be challenged every day on the job. In addition, they must apply their knowledge practically through teaching, writing, and publishing; some professors are now even cable news commentators. They are experts in their own fields.
Therefore, it is logically to deduce that they must “know” what they say that they have learned. It is expected that they will pursue intellectual risks. For the latter individual, the grade matters and so does the learning. In this sense, a “grading orientation” and a “learning orientation” are both positively correlated. In the former situation where the student is more concerned about the “A” at the upper division level, Kohn is right; a “grading orientation” and a “learning orientation” are inversely related because the student judges his or her ability to make and sustain an “A” on the lack of abilities of other students to manage their learning. It does not mean that the student is learning just because he or she earns an “A.”
If the student is more concerned about what the other students get, then the student is not learning. The competition is to know enough of the information to get the “A” and not to know enough of the information to learn the material.
What Kohn indirectly suggests has some relation to what Carol Dweck suggests in Mindsets, The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential. In the book, Dweck explores the difference between “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset,” which is a sub-topic I teach with the “Grit” essay. Dweck’s book focuses primarily on the mindset of business leaders. Dweck’s “Changing Our Mindset” chart outlines the differences between the two belief systems.
For example, with a fixed mindset, individuals struggle with challenges, avoiding them and becoming defensive when expected to learn and demonstrate new knowledge. Fixed mindset individuals want to “look smart in every situation,” “ignore constructive criticism,” and “never fail” (Dweck). They often feel “threatened by the success of others and achieve less than their full potential” (Dweck).
On the other side of the chart, individuals with a growth mindset tend to take more risks with the understanding that overcoming challenges is part of the process of learning. Growth mindset individuals apply effort, learn from when they fail, and persist in going forward. They “[r]each higher levels of achievement.”
The “A” students at the upper division level will train themselves to expect an “A,” but will not train themselves to learn how they achieved the “A.” If I asked a student to teach me the material, the student would struggle. It is one thing to know the material for a test, but it is quite another thing to know the material to teach, or tutor, another student or even to write a fully developed essay.
Because assessment of student learning should encourage progression of understanding and development, from assignment to assignment, it is no wonder that students would get the most benefit from their learning through tutorial efforts. If they refuse to be concerned about learning in the classroom after receiving a high grade, then maybe they can consider the benefits of tutoring another student. Through practical application, they might get a sense of what it is that they know and what it is that they do not know.
When you explain something, you often know if you have a command of the material because you do not find yourself stuttering and/or stumbling when explaining concepts. However, if there are long pauses in your explanation and it appears to a tutee that you are not sure, then this should be enlightening.
Through this experience, the “A” student will become more intrinsically motivated about knowledge. However, if the “A” student is more concerned with “looking smart,” then tutoring another student might not work. At the first sign of uncertainty, the student will lean towards effort withdrawal and self-handicapping and procrastinate the learning process.
Last rev. October 31, 2019
When understanding why students self-handicap, I have a useful prime time television analogy that might help you to understand my point of view and help you to make the connection to the larger theoretical discussion on self-handicapping and achievement.
Dr. Cristina Yang of Grey’s Anatomy is known for her intellectual abilities and she is regarded for her astuteness and medical acumen even as a cardiothoracic surgical resident. For five seasons on the show, she flaunts her intellectual prowess to the detriment of other residents. However, in season six, she is confronted with challenge when Dr. Teddy Altman, an attending cardiothoracic surgeon, enters and becomes her mentor at the request of Dr. Owen Hunt, a fellow military servicemen.
Although Yang is enamored with Altman in the beginning, vying to work with her exclusively, she later experiences discomfort with Altman. Altman begins to challenge Yang on her ability to provide justification for why she is choosing a specific medical procedure or treatment option. After all, Seattle Grace is a teaching hospital. Yang had been accustomed to applying what she knows in a robotic sense, but she could not explain to Altman why she chose a particular option. Yang had a fixed mindset; she needed to look smart in the situation.
Because of Altman’s challenges to Yang’s sensibilities, in and out of the operating room, Yang initially wants to be taken off her service. In essence, Yang wants to procrastinate the learning process through self-handicapping, which is a common strategy for regulating threats to self-esteem when failure is possible.
In “Academic Self-Handicapping and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis,” the authors suggest that people who self-handicap often construct impediments to performance; the goal is “to protect or enhance one’s perceived competence . . .” (Schwinger et. al. 744). In the event of failure, the person who self-handicaps can attribute failure to the impediment. In this scenario, Yang might decide no longer to work with Altman. Thus, Yang would be lacking key practice of medical procedures specific to the cardiothoracic specialty.
Yang might say in response to questions about her lack of practical knowledge, “I couldn’t apply the medical procedure because Altman was asking so many questions” instead of looking within herself and challenging her own mindset about learning.
Instead of enduring the challenges associated with practical teaching, Yang will withdraw effort in the environment, self-sabotage the learning process, and create a justification for the behavior. In this scenario, Yang would stay in a fixed mindset and never move forward into achievement at the next level without the benefit of assessing her current knowledge base.
Likewise, the “A” student at the upper division level would also struggle with self-handicapping, especially if his or her “smartness” is challenged by another student achieving an “A” on the same test. High-achieving individuals genuinely believe that they are the only ones who can achieve 100% quantification of their learning. They do not assume that the curriculum is of quality; they assume that they are above the curriculum. In some way, they believe that they have outsmarted the curriculum that serves as a foundation for them receiving an “A.”
This means that regardless of whether the curriculum is of high quality, they will leave the classroom and the course with a superior evaluation of themselves. If change is going to come in terms of encouraging more learning and less focusing on the grade, the assessment, or the marks, then assessing the curriculum is not the only place we need to start or stop.
I think that we need to assess what truly constitutes an “A.” The feedback we use must address the student’s understanding and knowledge based upon that grading category.
Last rev. October 31, 2019
The last reason Kohn makes concerning the case he makes against grades is that “[g]rades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking. They may skim books for what they’ll ‘need to know.’ They’re less likely to wonder, say, ‘How can we be sure that’s true?’” (234).
The student who skims books for general knowledge on a topic is arguably the same student who will also ask “Will this be on the test?” They may be different in aptitude, but both students believe that they only need to know “so much” information to “pass the test.”
The instructor’s use of the rubric reinforces the student’s argument that pursuit of unnecessary intellectual risks will inhibit passing the test overall. The goal then becomes for the student not to learn the material as is suggested in previous paragraphs, but for the student to demonstrate that he or she appears to know the material; these views are not challenged by the student when he or she receives a high passing grade.
The rubric might suggest that the student has demonstrated mastery of the subject matter because of the points the student achieves for “content development” under one of the categories. Most categories include “expert,” proficient,” or “weak.”
The student who just needs to know what is on the test and who earns a high passing grade will assume that he has mastered the subject matter, especially if the points fall within “A” range. This poses a challenge for both the academic assessment consultant and the educational psychologist.
As Kohn suggests, “Assessment consultants worry that grades may not accurately reflect student performance; educational psychologists worry because grades fix students’ attention on their performance” (235). If Kohn is right, then how should we measure “performance”? To answer this question, we should reassess the example of the math student who received a 50 on one test, a 76 on a second test, and a 90 on the third test.
Because math and science as disciplines tend to be both technical in their pursuits, it is not impossible to believe that we could use this three-level of progression for the composition student. We can measure performance in the composition classroom by determining the different levels of understanding that a student has for certain type of source material.
For example, the students who write the “Grit” Essay as a course requirement for my class must use three base sources as a foundation for the development of the content. These three sources collectively are worth 60% of their final points for the assignment. The remaining 40% of the points are divided between the introduction and conclusion and the other sources. Each of the remaining sources and paragraphs are worth five-percent.
Of the three base sources, one totals five pages, the second totals two pages, and the video runs roughly six minutes. It is the five-page source that I instruct students to spend more time on because it is a peer-reviewed journal article and it focuses the discussion of grit on the larger notion that grit is distinct from its imperfect correlate, self-control.
Grit is passion and perseverance for completing a superordinate goal and it requires the student to adopt a “hierarchical goal framework” for managing progress at multiple levels (Duckworth and Gross 321). “Understanding how goals are hierarchically organized clarifies how self-control and grit are related but distinct: [s]elf-control entails aligning actions with any valued goal despite momentarily more-alluring alternatives; grit, in contrast, entails having and working assiduously toward a single challenging superordinate goal through thick and then, on a timescale of years or even decades” (Duckworth and Gross 319).
Spending more time with the base sources will help the student gain mastery of the topic from the perspective of grit and self-control, how the latter requires momentary adjudication of “bottom-up impulses” and conflicting actions and how the former requires long-term tenacity and pursuit of a greater vision (Duckworth and Gross 320).
In referring to the hierarchical goal framework, the “superordinate goal sits at the top of a well-organized goal hierarchy in which lower-order goals are tightly aligned with the superordinate goal, and these lower-order goals in turn give rise to effective actions that advance the individual toward the superordinate goal” (Duckworth and Gross 321).
Students who discuss the base sources in depth, and the two additional sources peripherally, demonstrate 60% mastery of the concept of grit in contrast to self-control for a roughly five-page paper. However, without the exploration of the additional source materials, which is about 25%, and this excludes the introduction and the conclusion paragraphs, the student would only demonstrate the same 60% mastery.
Therefore, should the student receive an “A” on the paper?
If we are using this numbers-based system of grading and assessment, the answer would be no.
However, if we are using a holistic written communication rubric, the student might receive a passing grade on the paper, a score higher than 60 percent.
If we judge the student’s work based upon the mastery of content development at an advanced level, the presence of sophisticated language at the sentence line might hinder our critical reading of the student’s work. We assume that if the student can construct a sophisticated sentence that communicates skillful consideration of the topic then it follows that the student must have a command of the topic. In very rare cases, there are a handful of students who demonstrate command of the material for the paper and will subsequently earn a true “A.”
These very few will demonstrate the 60% mastery needed and exploration of the lesser point value sources. Their points will fall under the “A” range. However, for many the students who might fall within either the “B,” “C,” “D,” or “F” ranges, these students do not demonstrate full mastery of the topic. They are the students who demonstrate 80%, 70%, 60%, or 50%, respectively, or maybe even lower. The lower ranges between 50 and below might suggest that students receive these points because they have failed either to demonstrate mastery of the base sources or have failed to incorporate all sources required.
In other words, the student could achieve mastery of the concept of grit in connection to self-control by incorporating the base sources and achieving 60% of the topic, but still fail the assignment because they forget to incorporate the other required sources. In this case, does the student demonstrate mastery of the larger topic?
Again, the answer would be no.
For a five-page paper, the student is required to incorporate all sources and each source has its own individual point value. In other words, a student who explores the base sources could still largely fail the paper.
The student might know what is on the metaphorical test, in this case the paper, but the student will not move a step further in pursuing intellectual risk and critical thinking to distinguish between focusing on what source matters in terms of meeting the major requirements and which sources only require a minor reference to make the grade overall.
A holistic rubric would not be sufficient in measuring for mastery within this context of context development.
Last rev. October 31, 2019
“Argument.” The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. The Writing Center, University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.
Duckworth, Angela and James J. Gross. “Self-Control and Grit: Related but Separable
Determinants of Success.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2014. 1-7. Web.
07 Nov. 2016.
Dweck, Carol. “Caution—Praise Can Be Dangerous.” American Educator (1999). 1-5. Web. 07
---. “Changing Our Mindset.” Visual/Graph. Web. 07 Nov. 2016. PDF file.
---. Mindsets, The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006. Print.
Fryman, D. (2004, August 31). Open your ears to biased professors. In Engaging Questions: A Guide to Writing, by Carolyn E. Channell & Timothy W. Crusius, 210-211. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Grey’s Anatomy. Creat. Shonda Rhimes. Perf. Sandra Oh, Kim Raver, Kevin McKidd. ABC.
Hoover, Eric. “Tomorrow, I Love Ya!” Engaging Questions: A Guide to Writing. Eds. Carolyn
E. Channell and Timothy W. Crusius. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2017. 115-120. Print.
Kohn, Alfie. “The Case against Grades.” Engaging Questions: A Guide to Writing. Eds.
Carolyn E. Channell and Timothy W. Crusius. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2017. 233-237. Print.
Kohn, A. (2011, November). The case against grades. Educational Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/case-grades/
Olson, K. (2006, November 7). The wounds of schooling. Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2006/11/08/11olson.h26.html.
Pulfrey, C., Buchs, C., & Butera, F. (2011). Why grades engender performance-avoidance goals: The mediating role of autonomous motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(3), 683-700, Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/abed/f1836639dc4f6b68bd015f9b4762bafea333.pdf?_ga=2.218198042.201339665.1572661775-2029150938.1572661775
Sackstein, S. (2014, November 19). Students react to a classroom without grades. Education Week Teacher. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2006/11/08/11olson.h26.html
Solomon, J.R. (2015, October 12). Indoctrination is not education. In Engaging Questions: A Guide to Writing, by Carolyn E. Channell & Timothy W. Crusius, 222-224. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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Last rev. 11/1/2019
I've been teaching three source materials for the current Argumentative Essay on the topic of grades. The source materials are located in the textbook titled Engaging Questions: A Guide to Writing, Second Edition and are as follows:
David Fryman's "Open Your Ears to Biased Professors," pp. 210-211
J.R. Solomon's "Indoctrination is Not Education," pp. 222-224
Alfie Kohn's "The Case against Grades," pp. 233-237
Fryman discusses the importance of students having "critical respect" for the professor's views. He states, "Perhaps we would benefit from treating our professors, who often double as mentors and advisers, the same way that we're taught to approach great works of literature: with critical respect" (Fryman 210). What Fryman is suggesting is the professor's views on the topic deserve as much critical respect as we give to works of literature--how we examine the background of the author and determine how that background informs our understanding of the immediate text.
We respect Faulkner's or Kafka's works because they part of the canon. We also respect established scholars in the field such as Stanley Fish's work Is There a Text in This Class? where he explores our "prestructured understanding"--how we have heard a question and within what context.
Fryman vs. Solomon
But Fryman also offers a unique perspective that might lend credence to why students, and Kohn, question the significance of grading. Fryman begins his article with an experience as a student that bothered him. "My first year here, it bothered me. Some professors subtly endorsed certain ways of thinking over others without always justifying their biases. They offered opinions beyond their academic expertise" (Fryman 210). Fryman follows with the point that the professors showed bias and partiality. The professor who exercises bias, without a valid record of academic and/or professional background to substantiate claims, does so with a lack of restraint.
It is Solomon who supports this notion professors who spend too much time validating one argument over another, using partiality and bias, will undoubtedly negatively affect the learning process. "It is the professor's responsibility to see that course materials get covered" (Solomon 224). Solomon suggests then that there is a distinction between a professor who exercises academic expertise and a professor who operates beyond their academic expertise. However, it is Fryman who uses the term academic expertise.
What, then, is the distinction? How should we view Fryman's belief about exercising critical respect for professors who espouse views within the academic classroom?
Critical Respect Professors who espouse beliefs beyond their academic expertise
Teaching/SME Some SME/Teaching
Publications/Research Some publications/research
Informed critical thinking Biased opinions
Legitimacy Questions of legitimacy
What is different between the two categories is that the professor who exercises true academic expertise will substantiate all claims with evidence and will not grade a student down just because the student does not espouse and/or agree with the same beliefs. The professor to whom we employ critical respect is responsible with knowledge, concepts, the academic environment.
This professor has studied the subject matter before ushering into classroom discussion. There is a strong record of scholarship and teaching to prove that the professor has the subject matter expertise (SME) to offer different viewpoints that take second level to the canon.
However, the professor who espouses beliefs beyond their academic expertise is typically working through an emotional viewpoint on the topic that cannot be substantiated beyond what the professor offers as evidence: which is himself or herself. For an academic environment, personal views are not sufficient. Teachers must help students dissect arguments:
What is true vs. What is not true
What holds water vs. What is mere speculation
What is reasoned analysis vs. What is confirmation bias
What is valid grading vs What is unsubstantiated grading
Without encouraging a critical thinking ability in students, instead focusing on offering biased views, professors will hinder students' learning. Solomon makes this point. "[S]tudents might not be ready to take on the responsibility for evaluating the professor's opinions" (Solomon 223). If students do not possess critical capacity, then it is likely that the "professor's views may not deserve so much critical attention" (Solomon 224). Fryman would disagree, believing that knowing how the professor thinks about a particular issue would be important to gain insight into how the professor thinks about abortion, immigration, gay rights, and other high button issues.
However, Solomon further suggests that knowing the professor's views might lead to the belief that professors are not teaching, but attempting to convert. Solomon offers a unique perspective:
"In my ethics class last year, the teacher told us she was a lesbian. In one of our discussions we spoke about gay rights, and whether or not gay marriage should be legal. She believed strongly in the right of gay people to marry. Some of the students, including me, did not agree with her. Yet, when we tried to discuss our side of the issue, she cut us off" (Solomon 223).
The fact that the professor cut the student off from the discussion suggests that the professor was not willing to hear a counterargument. This means that the professor is teaching the student how to ignore counterarguments. Therefore, if students cannot recognize and address counterarguments, then it would be equally difficult for students to think critically and possess the critical capacity to judge the professor's opinions. Therefore, this professor who ignores the counterargument is espousing beliefs beyond their academic expertise because the standard of the academic environment is critical discussion.
With these ideas in mind, focusing on these two articles recently and exploring Kohn through board discussion on Wednesday, November 6, 2019, how do grades affect the learning process and the students' learning progress overall?
In a board discussion to generate potential topic sentences to a prompt that asks Should we keep grades or should we eliminate grades? as a classroom discussion, we came up with the following list of potential topic sentences:
Grades do or do not:
1. Measure progress
2. Measure academic comparison
3. Measure gaps
4. Measure motivation
5. Measure achievement
6. Measure goal orientation
These potential topic sentences can work with either position, i.e., keep or eliminate grades.
The questions, then, are twofold:
1. Should students be required to show critical respect for professors by accepting their viewpoints as demonstrated and/or referenced within the academic essay?
2. Should professors have the right to grade student papers down if those students do not include a reference to the professor's viewpoints within the academic essay?
It is Fryman who states that it is "unfair for a professor to assign high grades only to students who echo their view or to make others feel uncomfortable to disagree . . ." (211). What Solomon suggests about the professor who cut him and his fellow classmates off from the discussion is the implicit fear that surrounds this one question put forth by Kohn: Will this be on the test? (234).
As Kohn suggests, "[g]rades tend to reduce the quality of students' thinking" who might be more concerned about what's on the test than what they need to learn (234). The students here would be more concerned with their extrinsic motivation, the desire to get better grades, versus intrinsic motivation, the desire to learn for learning sake (Kohn 235).
The most important takeaway from this discussion is that the professor's viewpoints are not required to receive a grade on a student paper, unless the professor is a scholar and is using his or her works and those works have been course/department adopted. Only then can the professor espouse beliefs that have been validated through a course adopted text and validated through teaching as a subject matter expert.
Questions to Consider:
1. How do the professor's views hinder student learning?
2. How do the professor's views affect the grading of student learning?
Additional Questions to Consider:
The following questions are what I asked my students for a mid-term reflection, using a thinking routine. They may have implications for teachers and instructors alike:
1. What is your learning style?
2. How do you learn?
3. What are your student learning needs?
What if we asked the same questions of instructors?
1. As an instructor, what is your learning style?
2. As an instructor, how do you learn?
3. As an instructor, what are your instructor learning needs?
4. As an instructor, what are your teaching needs?
This might be a useful set of questions to continue gauge student learning processes as well as instructor learning and teaching processes.
The instructor is always a learner, a lifelong student.
The obvious plans might be to design a survey instrument that focuses on the instructor.
I have found that I preferred hearing the lecture, as a student, so I have realized today that I deliver more oral lectures and visual through board lecture. But I do not design visual/animation/graphic design lectures that students might also find useful.
The next obvious plan is to locate the scholarship that might center on the "instructor as learner" or any scholarship that is close to that focus. There is an abundance of research on the student as learner.
The last obvious plan is to create a annotated bibliography and/or literature review that explores both the student as learner and the instructor as learner and to determine if there is a scholarship gap.
These plans will be useful for determining the learning process and learning progress of students and instructors alike.
This discussion is ongoing.
Last rev. 11/4/2019