Grades and Assessment

I have been traveling and ignoring the internet for the last ten days (a semi vacation-I drove 2700 miles alone with two springer spaniels) and am just catching up this morning.  While I was away there was an essay in IHE that looks at grading practices and practices that the author contends invalidate or “contaminate” grades.  These are: rewarding attendance, giving extra credit, punishing disruptive behavior, and rewarding class participation.  I tend to agree with that in that I don’t take attendance, only give extra credit in one course because it is mandated by our assessment regime, and rarely have disruptive behavior in my classes (a real benefit of 8:00 classes)

There are two interesting things about the article.  One is that it was written by Jay Sterling Silver (awesome name) who is a law professor.  Reading it I assumed that the author was someone who regularly taught general education courses.  I am stunned to hear that law profs take attendance or give extra credit.

But the other interesting thing is this statement:

In the era of outcomes assessment, testing serves to measure, more than ever, whether students have assimilated particular knowledge and developed certain skills. A student’s mere exposure to information and instruction in skills does not, in today’s assessment regime, reflect a successful outcome. The assessments crowd wants proof that it sank in, and grades are the unit of measurement.

This triggered some interesting comments, but fewer than I would have expected.  What did get discussed at length is the difference between excused absences and unexcused absences.

Assuming that attending class actually contributes to students learning stuff, what is the practical difference between missing class to attend a funeral or an athletic event and just oversleeping?  Either way you have missed the experience of being in class and the person who attended the funeral did not learn any more or less than the person who was in bed.