Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Your Grades Are Not You

As exams come to an end, you probably have visits, phone calls, and emails from students who believe that they have done poorly.  Some have good reason for that belief; they showed up an hour late for the exam and answered only half the questions, for example.  But most just know they have not done as well as they had hoped ... they did not walk away from the exam room with that all-too-infrequent feeling of "Wow! I just aced that one!"

Frankly, those who have that "aced" feeling often have not aced anything.

The pessimistic feeling has little to do with not having learned the subject matter, or even with not having mastered the art of resolving novel, hypothetical, legal questions under extreme time pressure.  Rather, it has to do with a dread of receiving ... yup ... poor grades.

Refer them to Professor Franzese's article.  Say what?

Franzese_5_2004Professor Paula Franzese, of Seton Hall University Law School, "gets it" when it comes to teaching.  Not only is she a seven-time recipient of the Student Bar Association’s Professor of the Year Award, but she also has been named “Exemplary Teacher" by the American Association of Higher Education and was ranked the Top Law Professor in New Jersey by the New Jersey Law Journal.  If you have had the pleasure of attending one of her presentations (example: AALS conference), you know why.  She gets it when it comes to grading as well.  She advises:

Law school modes of evaluation leave much to be desired. In a context where there is so little feedback, how one happens to do on a particular day on a three or four-hour test tends to take on an undeserved importance and magnitude. Some even construe their grades as the final word on their abilities and opportunities as a future lawyer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Students need to read what she has written.

Professor Franzese has given me permission to link to a copy of her essay, "On Grades" (click on this link).

"Let your grades inform your life," she counsels students, "not define, diminish or even exalt it."

Think about sending your students to this link as their grades trickle in over the next few weeks.  (djt)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2005/12/as_exams_come_t.html

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