Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Professor's Dilemma

Let's imagine, say, a professor is teaching an advanced underwater basketweaving class.  And let's imagine, too, that the class grades are based primarily on a presentation, a portfolio of several baskets, and a self-evaluation of the basket portfolio.  Just imagine.

Now imagine that there's a student enrolled in the class who appeared for a couple of weeks, and did the group presentation, and did a fine job at that.  And then the student pretty much disappeared.  But the student emailed occasionally saying that zie was coming to class the next week.  And then that zie had had to miss class, but couldn't drop because [fill in excuse], and zie would do the work for the class and turn it in on the last day, because that's what the grade depends on.

How should the professor handle this?

Not that I'd be asking for a specific reason, because, of course, I don't even teach underwater basketweaving.


  1. So this student has attended class a total of two weeks?

    But the grade depends on the portfolio & other work?

    Agh. That's a tough one.

    If the grade actually depends on the portfolio -- if you're actually assessing on whether the student can weave baskets underwater or not, IOW -- well, maybe just assess that and assign a grade.

    If any part of the grade depends on attending class (if part of the assessment depends on whether the student can discuss and evaluate basket-weaving techniques, for instance) then maybe cut the grade because the student has not been in class to demonstrate zier ability to do those things?

  2. I'm with delagar. If the student can actually put together a portfolio of baskets, and there is no course policy that says the portfolio has to include work that was handed in sometime earlier, then I would take it, and grade it, and let the chips fall where they may.

    I'm struggling with a student who has handed in a basket for the second assignment, but has not handed in the basket prototype or reflective letter about the basketweaving process that I said I wanted with the submission. And in fact, zie didn't hand in the revised basket either (after the first and second basket assignments, there was a revision basket opportunity). Sigh.

  3. If there is no attendance/participation/ timing on the portfolio, sure, I would grade as is. I have rarely had a student who didn't attend class whose portfolio was that great. . . I don't care about the excuses.

    I have a student who struggles with writing (i.e. total paralysis, panic, etc); she can talk eloquently about it, but ultimately I've said: you have to do it. When it's due. End.

  4. My partner is a mathematician, who as an undergrad at Berkeley basically didn't go to classes his freshman year. He did show up to take, and ace, the final exams in the classes he cared about. And at the end of his freshman year, at nineteen, he was accepted to the Ph.D. program in math at the University of Chicago, and went.

    If they can really do the work to the standard expected, I don't actually care if they show up to my class or not.