Making Midterm Grades Meaningful

With the Faculty Assembly’s passage of the new midterm grade reporting policy last week, we’ve gotten some questions about what this means for course design as well as how we might ensure the grades we report are meaningful and accurate reflections of our students’ progress. This week’s post will try to answer those questions, as well as provide some food for thought as you think about your spring courses. Since a short post can’t cover everything in depth, we invite you to come by the CETL if you’d like to dive deeper into any of this. 

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Surprise! It’s October!

SurprisedCatIs it just me, or is the semester going by really fast? (Note: I have posed this rhetorical question at the five-week mark of every semester in my teaching career.) As we stagger make our way toward midterms, our classes are finding their rhythms–their patterns and identity–as we and our students become more familiar with one another and with the work at hand. In many cases, this is a really positive development; students have gelled with one another, discussions have become less stilted and more open and honest, and we’re finally able to remember everyone’s name. But in some instances, the rhythm isn’t established yet. Or the class has taken on less-than-ideal characteristics–students are sullen, or belligerent, or just plain flat. If you’re in that spot (and, honestly, who among us hasn’t been?), the good news is there’s still time to turn things around. In some cases, the answer to our problems is to relax the reins a little bit, especially if discussion is the main area in which our class is struggling. It may seem counter-intuitive, but letting go may be the answer to regaining pedagogical balance. Have we over-planned? Are we creating structures that stifle students rather than empower them? Do they have room to try (and maybe even fail) to accomplish the course goals? In this thoughtful essay, Chris Friend explores what it means to “let go,” listen to our students, and let them wander rather than channel them into specific places. Sometimes the way to regain control is to give it up. Continue reading “Surprise! It’s October!”