This isn’t the blog post you’re looking for

It’s time for some wise words from Yoda.

The wisdom of Yoda is so true. He says the dark side is quicker, easier, and more seductive. For the sake of this blog post, that means giving out grades. It is quicker and easier to do. Here is a rubric and here is a score. That can be really seducing to do if you are a tenure track professor with a million other things to do. Take your grade and move on. Why did you get that grade? Please consult the rubric. We could probably figure out how to do everything on ScanTron bubble sheets so assignments practically grade themselves. I was skeptical when I saw the titles of the readings about doing away with grades. How else are we supposed to assess student performance? It is how I was assessed, and I turned out fine (That’s a favorite argument of mine for things). Besides, isn’t it important to have quantitative measures of assessment in this metric obsessed world we live in? That way we can prove we are good teachers, and students have a way to measure their growth? If we want to try not giving grades in earnest, we need to truly buy into it. This means we have to give up our biggest student motivator, the fear of a bad grade.

As I have recently been informed by those couple of videos that carrot and stick motivators only work for mostly mechanical tasks, then we would continue to operate this way? In the class I was a TA for last semester, there were lots of writing assignments and a final presentation. There were no tests or quizzes, which are, in my opinion, the primary motivator to look at the information. However, with everything they turned it was easy to tell they were writing to regurgitate information to get their grade. I am open to believing that if there weren’t grades on these assignments, they might have been more thoughtful in their responses. It would also make me feel better because I provided a lot of feedback on those assignments to help them to that end, which apparently is largely ignored. It makes me believe that to truly move away from information regurgitation learning, we have to go all in and not have a mix of. Unlike many of the other things, I think going gradeless is an all-or-nothing affair. So get your grading gum and patches, because it is time to go cold turkey on grades.


Ethics Case

The cause that I would like to discuss is that of Frank Sauer. He was found to have falsified data. He got some good mileage out of the falsified data too, two publications in Science and five grant applications. There was also a follow-up to this case posted as well. Sauer tried to make the case that he was hacked, and his figures were altered by activists who don’t agree with his research. His evidence was found to be rather flimsy and potentially fake. His punishment was upheld by a judge.

Academic misconduct like this always begs the question as to why? I get that it is a highly competitive world in Academia, but is faking data really the solution? Especially if your intended target is Science. I do wish they would elaborate as to how the investigation was began. Was it a student of his, or did the peer review process catch him?  If it was student, that is a brave move. His actions likely have a trickle-down effect on any students of his. Will they be able to continue with their research or will they have to terminate their programs? It is possible that they will also be associated with the stigma of his forgery. Long story short, don’t fake data because other people are relying you for their jobs.