...I was manually checking that my students for this coming semester have met the course prerequisites. Because we choose not to automatically enforce the prerequisites (too many legitimate exceptions), this is a seriously tedious task that involves looking at each student’s entire grade history.
While doing so, I learned that a class I taught last fall, and was horribly unhappy with, was responsible for the lowest grade that quite a few of these students have ever had. And all of them have taken courses that are generally considered more challenging and far more work than my course.
The interesting thing is that when I taught the course again in the spring, I did a much better job, and the students did a lot better.
So did the students in the fall deserve to do measurably worse than the students in the spring? They definitely had a worse command of the material, which is what the grades measure, and which is the information that I care about when I’m checking prerequisites.
But on the other hand, a lot of people use grades as a shorthand for how responsible and intelligent a person is. Are these students less responsible and intelligent than the students I had in the spring?
I had wanted to think so, but this evidence says no.
I don’t think I did an objectively bad job in the fall. The student evaluations came back very positive (not that student evaluations are the ultimate arbiter…). I did my job. I just did it better in the spring.
Sometimes I wonder if teacher quality makes any difference at all. If it doesn’t, that’s depressing, and I should probably quit and go do something more lucrative. But if it does, then there’s this all-consuming guilt that I am not the very best teacher I can be, that I am not as good a teacher now as I will be next year, and that the students are harmed by this.
I guess I know which way the evidence points. 2 years ago