Mr Burchell Mr Burchell, what can I do to bring up my grade?
Last day of classes this semester.
My students are in desperation mode as the exams draw near and they start to care about their grades. I have enjoyed playing a different role in exams these past few years. As a teacher, I am on the side of accuracy and validity, and that role comes with its own responsibility and stress. The student objective in the situation is to somehow or other obtain a grade which favorably misrepresents their skill level. This desire for an A transcript with C work leads to many of the crises that dominate my interactions with students lately. They are not genuinely worried about seeing an unfair exam, but the idea of a fair exam has them all a little jumpy.
In a few of my classes today, the topic of negative marking was brought up by students. Part of their exam will be multiple choice, so they are concerned about negative marking. Anyway, negative marking was a hot topic because I quickly told them that it is a great idea, which made about three more of them look up with terrified eyes at the teacher who might take away their not-so-secret weapon on multiple choice tests: blind luck. I find that topics involving grades are fertile ground for effective discussions about math. Students care about their grades more than they care about most of the other topics we discuss, which is ironic, because if they paid attention to the other topics... but that's only my humble teacher opinion.
Negative marking represents another one of those badly misunderstood tools of education that bring out the irrationality of students.
I once wrote a monograph on the subject... a mere trifle, really. The subject of negative marking, that is, not the irrationality of students. And it's not really a monograph, but a handout. I am still researching the irrationality of students.