This Academic Life
  Why Grading Stinks
Why Grading StinksGrading papers is the worst part of my job. Commenting on student papers is fine, since that's pedagogical -- it's an opportunity to help improve the craft that the students are attempting to learn. But having to then cram those comments into a single letter-grade is deeply frustrating for me. I understand why students want letter-grades, since they vouch for mastery of certain skills and help to certify the student as having legitimately covered certain sets of material; they're part of the whole credentialing process that has unfortunately become more and more prominent in modern academia.

That's probably why I dislike it so much. I don't like having to play the role of a skills trainer; I much prefer to be a craftsman at work who is assisting his apprentices as they strive for competence, proficiency, and then mastery. Flyvbjerg's Making Social Science Matter has an interesting account of this stuff that draws on Hubert Dreyfus (who in turn draws on Heidegger, which IMHO the right place to begin). The basic point is that virtuosos in a field don't follow rules; they have mastered the rules and then in an almost Wittgensteinian sense tossed the ladder away after they have climbed up it, and can simply perform. "Skills" are a very rudimentary part of the process, and certification/credentialing can be an impediment to it if people become too focused on the steps and not focused enough on the goal -- which is what I fear grading pushes people towards.

Oh, I forgot to mention the $45 conference registration fee for MPSA in my previous entry. It should have been more, but I pretended to be a grad student and paid the lower price. I think that they wanted $110 (!) from faculty. NEPSA, and ISA-NE, have a conference registration fee for faculty of about $35, if I remember right. One wonders where all that registration money goes -- in the same way that students wonder, or should wonder, where their tuition money goes. It sure as hell doesn't go into faculty salaries, that's for sure.

[Posted with ecto]

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"Academia als Beruf," or, an occasional record of the various aspects of my life as an academic. Written by "21stCWeber," an arrogant handle I know…but I must confess that I do want to be Weber when and if I grow up :-)



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