Another dispatch from grading Hell (fourth circle), in which the reader gains some insight into circumstances which evoke my sympathy, and circumstances which do not.
I have this pedagogical strategy where I try to make my students think more than they have to write. One way this strategy manifests itself is in how I deal with case studies on finals exams.
We’ve spent the whole semester working up case study responses following a standard plan of attack — identifying the interested parties in the case, the potential consequences for those interested parties if the protagonist in the case follows one plan of action or does something else instead, the protagonists obligations toward the various interested parties (including herself), the pairs of obligations and interests that seem to be pulling in opposite directions, and, in light of all that, what the protagonist ought to do.
So, a couple weeks before the final, I distribute four case studies. The deal is that the exam will prompt the students to provide the interested parties, or the consequences, or the obligations, or the main conflicts (and what to do to balance them) — one of these pieces of our standard work up for each of the four cases. While preparing for the exam, they won’t know which of those they’ll have to provide for a given case, so they’ll have to think about all of the pieces. However, on the final itself, they’re only in for one of those pieces — and about 25% of the writing of a full work-up — per case.
These rules of engagement were explained in loving detail on the final exam review sheet I distributed. They were explained on six different occasions in class. Indeed, the exam bolded the specific piece of the work up they were supposed to supply for each of the four cases.
And yet, about 7% of the students provided a full work-up for each of the four cases. (In some cases, this gratuitous writing clearly cut into the time they were able to devote to the other exam items.) And, I feel kind of bad for those students.
On the other hand, the 14% of students who blew the question asking them to define a term I defined in class about once a week throughout the semester elicit no sympathy from me at all. My heart is as a stone toward them.
Go ahead and use the comments to tell me what a horrible excuse for a human being I am.