Monday, June 26, 2006

Marking, marking....

Today is marking day. Hoorah. This is, by a long shot, the least favourite part of the job. (I don't actually know anyone who looks forward to marking.) The problem is not that it's arduous, or that the bulk of the exams are invariably mediocre. The problem is that grading is really beside the point of education generally, and of higher education in particular. Grades are just there because bean-counters can't understand anything that can't be dumped easily into a spreadsheet. Marks, letter grades, and numbers of credits earned fit into spreadsheets. Understanding, knowledge, and critical thinking ability do not. So, those of us who want to inculcate the latter -- professors, lecturers, TAs, et al -- are forced to inculcate the former.

The question I wonder about, though, is why it works that way. Allegedly, professors run universities -- deans and other administrators all have advanced degrees, after all, and proved themselves as academics before becoming administrators. So, shouldn't the bean-counters have to dance to our tune, rather than the other way around? Or is it just a matter of the historical antecedents -- i.e., prior schooling -- having a heavy reliance on grades as markers of success, and this carrying over into university? Or some combination thereof?

I should point out that this year, in three seperate classes, I've had about six students complain about getting B's (70-79%).

No comments: