by degrees

All degrees are remnants of the past — at best indicators of abilities which may be applied to the future.  The full weight of the problem does not rest therein (though I wonder how much a problem weighs — a problem truly), but more often the filtering which takes place is justified within the course’s outlook solely.  Skills may be practised in the classroom and by these an arbitrary grading scale is determined — fine enough, but how is the feedback to be applied?

In case you fail to recognise the symptoms, at present I ‘m grading papers.  The long term applications of this work are minimal, yet this is the part that has to be done correctly — I can’t afford to assign a mark falsely only to have it overturned.  What a waste that should prove!  Both teacher and student strain the neck preparing for the blow to fall — not to fall unexpectedly, better to be proactive.  I should wish this would n’t affect my marking, but it does.  At best my marking is judiciously subjective — and in places justified, but there are surely places where I have been injudicious and shall be again.

So what is to be made of this all?  I mean to suggest that subjective is n’t a bad thing — so long as the word is spoken in the daylight its most sinister machinations fail to harm much.  It is when the guise of objectivity can be wielded with full naiveté that real damage may occur — for the student and teacher might well benefit from the other’s perspective.  We should do better.  Students should no more fulfill assignments than we should mark them complete — instead we should together build projects which draw on the other’s strengths.

In short teaching should grow with both student and teacher alike — it will need to prove itself as truly inter-active.


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