Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Learning can be painful for the instructor

In the final stretch of the academic semester, the interest always builds.  Not in the content of the course, however, but in The Grade and what it will take to get The Grade by the end of the semester.  It's perilously close to the end of my first semester to teach innovation and creativity.  I am not happy with the method I established at the beginning of the semester for determining grades and neither is a subset of my students.

In courses I've taught before, I have a reasonably robust method of assessing student learning.  I've clarified the expectations, developed rubrics (where they are of benefit), and created assignments that measure progress toward course objectives...more or less.  Because I'm never completely happy with whatever process is in place to determine The Grade.

In the innovation and creativity course, my logic at the beginning of the semester was to assess completion (rather than quality) of assignments in the majority of the homework or in-class work.  Thus, there have been frequent, short assignments with low point value (10-20 points), so that students could be candid or creative or selectively omit assignments.  The total number of points earned (at least in some portions of the course) was left to the student.  The unintended consequences were a record-keeping challenge for me and a fallacy of composition for students.

I ended up monitoring submission and/or completion of numerous assignments with low point value for 35 students; some of the students chose not to complete early assignments (due to the low point value) and are now unhappy with The Grade.  The goal of allowing students freedom to be expressive, take risks, and manage their level of interaction has worked very well for some, well enough for most, and extremely poorly for the rest.

The easy solution is to limit the number of assignments and provide more structure relative to the content.  But since the easy solution seems to defeat the purpose of the course, I have more thinking to do about how to determine The Grade when I teach this course again.  And I intend to solicit as much input as I can get from my current students...particularly the unhappy ones.  At this point, I'll take any suggestions I can get.


  1. I googled "traits of creative people" and found (lots of good stuff) this particular webpage:

    Maybe a "creative" rubric is possible?

  2. I would like this link a whole lot better if you'd been able to walk down the hall right after you sent it. :-)

    If we eliminate the possibility that creative rubric is an oxymoron (I'm decidedly ambivalent at the moment about oxymoron status), you're onto something. It does require a new way of thinking to reward and/or reinforce creative thinking...or even the attempt to "be creative." I did ask for student feedback today on how my approach to grades could be improved. Since there are at least two venues for students to provide feedback, I suspect they will.

  3. I would be interested in knowing what they say.

    In a funny universe sort of way (and isn't that always the case, if you can't help but look for lines that connect dots for your own personal amusement?), you and I are stuck in the same place.

    Standardizing, simplifying, and streamlining things that by definition can't be standardized, simplified, or streamlined.

    I miss our extra curricular philosophical going-nowhere-but-maintaining-constant-speed-anyway discussions.


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