Category: Grading

Academic Rigor

What is Academic Rigor? I suspect that the definition of that phrase is somewhat nebulous in most of our minds. When we do think about academic rigor, we tend to think in terms of extensive and/or weighty assignments that “really make the students work.”  Some will equate the phrase with a harsh grading of those “weighty assignments,” or any assignments for that matter. Others will  also include a classroom environment which is suitably “serious” and “no-nonsense.”

None of these, however, address the case for academic rigor. Without understanding the philosophy behind the call for academic rigor, it can quickly devolve to the concepts mentioned above. Foundational to academic rigor is the consideration of the spoken and unspoken objectives/outcomes for the course. The spoken (or listed) student outcomes for the course are included in the module.  These outcomes spell out what the student should know by the end of the course. They are course specific and the accomplishment of these outcomes is the understood reason for the course in the curriculum.

The unspoken objectives/outcomes for the course aren’t listed in the module, but are part of the overall objectives for those in the Adult Studies program, i.e. graduates should be able to:

  1. Apply learning experiences to professional and other situations
  2. Be able to articulate a Christian worldview and its implication for their home, work, and society.
  3. Demonstrate habits of clear, constructive, critical thought,
  4. Demonstrate a command of standard oral and written English.
  5. Evidence a lifestyle of moral and spiritual integrity
  6. Compete in the job market for positions in keeping with their major course of study
  7. Incorporate ongoing learning strategies toward the fulfillment of their life goals.

Achieving both sets of objectives, spoken (outcomes listed in the module) and unspoken (objectives for the Adult Studies Program) is the instructional goal. Appropriate academic rigor is that which will accomplish this goal.

This will include appropriate assignments that are focused toward the spoken objectives, but managed by faculty within the scope of the unspoken.  For instance, we fail when we grade a paper without also taking into account the writing quality (point 4 above) or whether or not it reflects “clear, constructive, critical thought” (point 3 above), etc. This applies not only to grading but to the conversations, lectures, and activities within the classroom.

Our role as teacher places us in a precarious position. In God’s eyes we carry extra responsibility for our students’ learning. For me, grading has always been the more challenging aspect of the instructional process. The temptation is to only give a cursory look at the papers to make sure the major content points have been hit. I confess to you, THAT IS WRONG AND LAZY THINKING. We owe our students and ourselves better than that. Each submission should be read and marked so that it contributes to learning as much as assessment. Each submission should be considered both for the spoken and unspoken objectives, and the grade given fairly reflects the work the student has done. Giving a good grade when the work is only average, or less, is an insult to the student and speaks poorly of our own integrity and the value we place on the role we have accepted.

I ask you to reflect on the phrase academic rigor. “Like” or make a comment in response to this post. More importantly, please consider these things when you are focusing upon academic rigor in your courses.

Webinars to Inform and Improve

Greetings,

We are working on a re-design for the Faculty Resources tab of our site and in the process the webinars, which have been listed there, have all been moved to YouTube for easier access.  As I was compiling these links I reviewed some of the webinars and was reminded of the wealth of information these contain.  I’m posting that information below and encourage you to look over the list and review a couple yourself – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Webinar of the Faculty’s Role in Student Retention – see the calendar link on this page to register.

APA and Grading Writing Across the Curriculum. Presenter: Dr. Everett Wade https://youtu.be/HFeLIpg2lUk

Bring Life to Your Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Ed Garrett https://youtu.be/urKi7DGVGQM

Christian Worldview: Practical Applications for the Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Paul Criss https://youtu.be/jFm9nNoFoXc

Effective Use of Library Resources. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/CxpBGF8AHAs

Introducing Critical Thinking into the Classroom. Presenter: Rosemary Foncree https://youtu.be/HotogEC0PEc

Plagiarism: Helping Your Students Avoid It. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/jFmhBggVdzw

Student Engagement Strategy: Experimentation. Presenter: Dr. Thomas Randolph https://youtu.be/vvOAQl2Q_48

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Foster Critical Thinking. Presenters: Dr. Jerald Meadows & Elizabeth Juneau https://youtu.be/Qdt7Mu5sGno

Using Canvas to Facilitate Team Projects. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/RWuMnPtAvZA

Millennials in the Classroom. Presenter: Emma Morris https://youtu.be/0kgNsVN3SDs

Canvas Updates 2017. Presenter: Joe Villarreal https://youtu.be/0wWkVfKNNbA

Andragogy: Adult Learning Theory Applied. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/KnDc3zfpvrs

Accessing Case Studies from Belhaven Library. Presenter: Charles Gaudin https://youtu.be/3k_X6RQ5jvM

Student Created Rubrics?????

A rubric is simply a way to assess something by breaking it down into its component parts, and weighing them according to the importance of that part.  For instance, a rubric for evaluating a writing assignment could include a breakdown of items to be considered such as grammar, APA style, structure/layout, introduction, body, conclusion.  These would all be given different points possible relative to the overall importance of that item to the whole, e.g. grammar might only be 5% whereas the Body might be 25%.  In effect, a rubric is a way to evaluate something by looking at its component parts.

As you probably are aware there already exists an evaluation form to use for student presentations.  This is located in the Resources section of the Faculty Orientation Canvas Course and on Blazenet under Faculty Resources/Adult and Graduate/Documents.  The link above takes you to the Canvas course but you can find the evaluation at either location.

What I have found to be extremely useful as an activity a week or two before the presentations are to be made is to distribute the evaluation form to the class and engage them in a discussion about the weight of each of the items, whether there should be more or less items, and how the evaluation form might be modified for their upcoming presentation.  The Instructor, of course, needs to protect the points awarded in the content area, but this activity has tremendous power to increase student buy-in and awareness of how the evaluation will be assessed. Typically you can conduct this activity in about 30 minutes and it also gives the opportunity to discuss the assignment itself and answer questions.

Going a step further, on the day of presentations, have students evaluate each other using the rubric they created, and use those evaluations when considering the final score.  By doing this you not only emphasize the importance of the subject, but the importance of the presentation itself, which is also a learning objective of the program, if not the course.

Having students create their own rubrics teaches critical thinking skills and make them part of the learning process.  Give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

END OF COURSE EVALUATIONS – SOMETIMES THEY STING

The post below was originally made in December 2014.  Since then we have fully moved back to paper evaluations and will continue with that model until we can find a way to achieve a similar response rate through electronic means.  When the evaluations come in from the classes, the quantitative data is processed through a scantron like process to yield the individual and summative scores.  The individual comments are all typed in manually for easier consumption.  Hopefully, you are looking at your scores in each area as well as reading through the comments.  We never pull any comments out, even those which seem unduly harsh, thus the title of this blog.  Since the recent TEBS data for Spring 2017 has or will be released soon, I thought this might be a good time to re-post this.

Rick

Dr. Chip Mason, Dean of Belhaven’s School of Business, sent me an article titled “Cruel Student Comments: Seven Ways to Soothe the Sting,” knowing we are moving back to paper evaluations for the Adult Studies courses.  I’m excited about this move because it means we will get a much better response rate, which will yield better information about the course and classroom instruction.  However, it also may yield more of those stinging comments which we all would rather not hear.  In this article by Isis Artze-Vega, she expands on the seven points below.  I encourage you to read the article.  This is always a touchy subject where it is easy to get defensive, but it is also can be one of the most useful tools available if approached from the right perspective, even if painful.

Seven Ways to Soothe the Sting:

1.  Analyze the Data

2. Resist the lure of the negative

3. Let your critics be your gurus

4.  Find counter-evidence

5.  Dwell on the positive ones.

6. Read them with a friend

7. Be proactive

Thanks, Chip, for sending this to my attention.

A Call for “Good Writing”

by Dr. Kotina Hall, Dean – Belhaven, Atlanta

Effective communication is a buzz word that remains the topic of discussion in every business and learning sector as the concern for writing proficiency continues to plague society. The command for effective writing should be still be held in the highest regard.  Professional dialogue and academia have discussed in great detail how the absence of “good writing” lessens the opportunity for the demonstration of clearly-organized thought, earnest critical thinking development, and strong problem-solving. Regardless of the subject matter, understanding how to articulate clearly and concisely is necessary for high academia and career advancement. As such, we must act urgently in our resolve.

While tuition reimbursement is an attractive academic magnet, the return for excellent writing extends well into its possessor’s career and civic engagement as well. “The National Commission on Writing estimates that the nation’s top companies spend more than $3.1 billion a year on remedial training. The NCW estimates that states spend $221 million on writing training each year to bring employees up to level” (teachthought, 2012).

What variables have led to the decline in effective writing? Is it because we have become comfortable speaking into devices that we disregard misspelled words or proper punctuation, all because we want to communicate expeditiously? “Have we allowed the advancement of technology to compel us to shorthand?” Perhaps we accept human mediocrity, giving way to allowing machines to do the work which we previously took pride in completing. Technology will continue to advance, so what are we left to do?

It is proposed that we take our concerns by the reigns and do what we do best – elevate through instruction. Have we forsaken the beauty and fluidity of words properly and intentionally positioned on a page? Surely we have not. But if one has never explored such beauty, then one cannot imagine the power of penning such work. Resolution begins with two words: offer assistance.  It is a disservice to students when we know their writing is not acceptable, but yet we push them along. Constructive dissent must rear her head. The problem will not correct itself. Good writing is the culmination of repeated “good” practice.

This task will not be a simple one. It will require instruction to be consistent, rigid, and accompanied by high expectations to yield greatness. We must ready ourselves! Our change will create uneasiness and reveal accusations that we are harnessing a fossilized culture. Such expressions must strive to make our instruction even greater.  We must be diligent to show that “good writing” fosters dedication, strong work ethics and moral aptitude.  Balance must exist, too. Even so, while writing is necessary, we must be ever so careful to make it appealing and fun.

History has shown that the legacy of “good writing” never dies. “Good writing” shapes learning and invites critical thinking, leaving room for transformation. So when do we begin? The time is now. We model by offering our assistance. In doing so, our immediacy will solidify and re-establish writing as the ultimate model of erudition.

The NEW (and Improved) Blazenet

By now many of you have had to interact with the new Blazenet and I thought I would take a few minutes in this post and give a short tour of the more important, relatively speaking, aspects of Blazenet for Faculty.

First, Blazenet is no longer the repository for Faculty Modules of the curriculum used in either our on-site or online courses.  These modules can now be found in a Faculty Module Library in Canvas.  The student modules are also no longer available on Blazenet and can be found on the Canvas course-site.  This is a big improvement regarding keeping the modules lined up with each other and with the Canvas build-out for the course.  You should automatically enrolled in the Faculty Module Library if you are scheduled to teach a course but if for some reason you don’t have access or can’t find it, contact your Dean.

Second, recording attendance in Blazenet is both the same AND different. Before attendance can be posted the first time the course has to have the gradebook set-up.  There are help videos for this which I will mention later in this post.  Once the grade book is set up, posting attendance is relatively siattendancemple: from the home page, click on “Self-Service” drop down and choose the options which gets you to “Faculty Information.”  From there click on either Class Roster or Grading and select the appropriate course.  Click on the link for Grade book and it should take you to a screen with information like in the picture on the left.  Click on Attendance and the appropriate date to record attendance.  Note that dates only show up as they arrive on the calendar.

Third, you can email one or more students from the same place you mark attendance.  Instead of clicking on Attendance choose the “Send E-Mail to Students” link.  This is helpful for keeping all communication with a student in a tracked repository in case there are any questions that arise later, e.g. grading.

Fourth, this is also where you will come to post your final grades for the course so you can be paid.

Fifth, from the menu select Faculty Homepage and you will find helpful Quick Links and, more importantly, How-To videos under the FAQ section.  Simply click on the appropriate question to discover short tutorials which answer the question.

Sixth, from the menu select Faculty Resources/Adult and Graduate to be taken to a page with a variety of resources designed to assist you.  QuickLinks, FAQs, contact information for the respective Deans, and Forms & Documents which includes the most recent Adult Studies Faculty Handbook September 2016.

If there is more information you would like to see available on Blazenet, be sure to let me know at rupchurch@belhaven.edu.

5 Excellent Rubric Making Tools for Teachers – re-post

This is from the original article which can be found HERE

Rubrics are scoring charts used to assess and evaluate a particular learning or teaching activity. As is explained in this guide, rubrics are helpful for both teachers and students: teachers can use them when designing lesson plans and grading assignments; students can use them to make sure they meet the learning expectations and requirements of an assignment or project work. Rubric making should not be a complicated task . . . (read more)