Sunday, November 22, 2009

What a Lecture Hall is Supposed to Look Like

Miami's new business buliding was the venue for Doug Eder's presentation on the Joys of Assessment yesterday. Very nice. The photos show the left-hand third of the room.

Eder, who is on the neuroscience faculty at Southern Illinois University, suggested some old school measures to raise the bar on college writing. One that I am considering: a fatal error list.

Suppose professors got together and agreed that certain kinds of common errors needed to be erdicated (instead of simply being complained about year after year). The faculty might identify problems such as verb tense confusion or writing-as-though-a-text-message as fatal errors. Students exhibiting two or three such errors in any paper, get the paper back ungraded, and are given one week to correct it at a one letter grade reduction. Instructors might also include commonly confused terms on the list: affect/effect; principal/principle; desegregation/disaggregation...

Eder claims that he only had to impose penalties once (at the beginning of his course and on an assignment of lower point value) for the idea to catch on with his students.
This seems intuitively correct to me. We know that students perform better when appropriately challenged. It seems to me that we are only going to get the performance we teach - and insist upon.

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