Sunday, February 12, 2012

Real Teachers Don't Inflate Grades

This week, in my MCCC Philosophy of Religion classes, I give the first of three rounds of oral examinations. (Room A-153, BTW) I will meet, one-on-one, with 50 students. The meetings will be 10 minutes apiece. I'll ask them to explain six things. They are:
  1. Anselm's Ontological Argument for the Existence of God
  2. Gaunilo's criticism of Anselm's argument, plus a criticism of Anselm
  3. Kant's criticism of the Ontological argument, plus Norman Malcolm's response to Kant
  4. The Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's Existence
  5. The Fine-tuning Argument for God's Existence based on Anthropic Coincidences
  6. The Moral Argument for God's Existence (William Lane Craig's version)
I've spent the first third of this semester lecturing on all of these. My students know exactly what they will be asked. I told them I am expecting them to do well. Indeed, I love it when they do well. I will say to some of them, "You did an excellent job. I give you the grade of 'A'."

A few, however, will fail. I will tell them, "Your grade on this exam is an 'E'." Then I'll tell them how they can do better the next time.

Students who do well will have spent time memorizing the correct answers. If they can simply repeat what I have taught them, their grade is a 'B.' If they not only repeat the correct answer but have understanding, at an introductory level, their grade will be higher. And, they will retain the information. They will have learned something. My idea is that, if I can get students to memorize the correct answers, the moment may come where understanding clicks in. The light gets turned on. The penny drops.

From a teaching standpoint it does not get better than this. Real teachers want their students to learn. I love it when learning is demonstrated.

And, no "grade inflation" allowed. I don't flatter my students, and they know it. Because of this when I praise them, it means something.

I'm like the teacher in today's Doonesbury cartoon.