my professor doesn't actually read our exams. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 03:27 AM - Thread Starter
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cross posted in TAO

am i crazy for being bothered by this?

so i am in college right now (graduating with my bachelors in 2 semesters! finally!) and i am in a philosophy class. i am doing pretty well in this class, and we had a test a few days ago. 70 points were for the main part, of which i did very well and then 30 points were from the essay portion. i did well on the first two essay questions and then completely blanked on the third. it was 7am and no matter how hard i picked my brain i could not come up with an answer that sounded even remotely correct. so what did i do? i wrote a sentence and a half (and i mean that, i didn't even FINISH my second sentence) and then just clicked submit. (it was in an online testing center.) obviously we don't know our grades for the essay portion right away, as the teacher has to manually grade it.

grades were up today. i checked my essay portion expecting to have obviously, earned 0 points for question number 3. instead... i got a 7.5


i'll prove it to you. here is the question, my answer is the "selected answer", and then a "correct answer" which he gives at the bottom for all the questions (which we do get to see right after taking the test, so i knew i blew it, or so i thought..)

Question 3 - 7.5 out of 10 points

According to William James, what does it mean to say that an idea is “true”? Give an example to clarify.

Question 3 answers

Selected Answer: What William James meant when he said an idea was true was that it could be proven with testing of theories. He meant that

i would like to point out right here, how i seriously answered a sentence and a half. a 5 year old could have come up with a better answer.

Correct Answer: Correct James, like all pragmatists, rejects the correspondence theory of truth, which holds that a belief is true if it corresponds to some state of affairs in the world. In other words, the statement 'the dress is blue' is true if and only if there really is a dress and it is indeed blue. The trouble has been that we cannot get out of our phenomenal world to check our claim against reality. The correspondence theory of truth seems to lead to skepticism.

The pragmatists side step this whole issue by arguing that the correspondence theory of truth doesn't reflect what we mean by 'true' at all. In our everyday way of thinking, we say that a belief is true if it "brings us into satisfactory relations with the other parts of our experience"--that is, if it works in relation to the experience we have had and continue to have. For example, my belief that it is below freezing outside is true if, when I look outside, the windows on the car are frosted over, and the puddles in the driveway are iced, and, when I consult it, the outdoor thermometer reads 25 degrees. My belief that it is freezing outside now 'works' with the other parts of my experience. This belief will remain true as long as it 'pays' or has 'cash value' in my everyday experience. Of course, if stepped outside and found myself perspiring in what felt like a 90 degree heat wave, then I would be in doubt. I should then check the thermometer to see if it was malfunctioning and so on, until I had settled on another belief, which would more satisfactorily bring me in to relation with the other parts of my experience. That belief would then be the truth.

That doesn't mean that anything goes, however. Beliefs are always held in check by our experiences. And given an indefinite number of experiences, and an indefinite number of inquirers, perhaps one only one belief would always prove effective, and that would be the Truth with a capital 'T', and the thing that it marked out would be reality.

[None Given]
so now i am at a loss on what to do. i mean obviously i should just shut up and be happy with 7.5 points that i clearly did not earn. however this is BUGGING ME TO NO END because i work SO HARD to study and do well in this class. my other essays were well thought out and well written. And i got a 9.5 and 8 on those. So do I say something? Ask him if he actually read it? On the next test do i write a completely bogus essay having nothing to do with philosophy to see if he actually DOES read it?

and the more important question...
am i the only one who is seriously bugged by this??

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#2 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 10:57 AM
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I can see why it bothers you. I think you pretty much have two options.

One is to accept the weird power imbalances and structures of the university system which result in this kind of behaviour on the part of instructors. In which case, you can take it as your random due in a system where someday you'll probably equally randomly lose points.

The second is to set your own personal ethical standards and email the prof and point out that s/he must have made an error in grading your work, and give the points back.

If it helps, I was in the second category when I was in school and ended up leaving university disenchanted (and have a great life, although at times I wish I'd stuck with it a bit longer).

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#3 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 01:27 PM
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Is your professor untenured? It is the sad truth that teaching and grading papers are much lower on her/his priprity list if he/she is working toward tenure. I hate having to blow off students, teaching, and grading, but the reality is that if I do not publish enough I will loose my job in a few years. That means that getting a phd was pointless, having $60,000 in student loans is a waste of money, and I will be out of a career (you can't get another job if you lost a tenure bid in my field, as with most fields). It is extremely difficult to balance research requirements with teaching, and in many cases, teaching is what falls by the wayside because publishing is what allows professors to keep their jobs (at least at research universities. I look forward to the day when I can spend more time teaching, as I really like it and feel like I am doing a disservice to the students. I am sorry that it happened to you, maybe you could try to look at it from your professor's perspective, if it makes you feel any better. He/she has a life, career, and probably a family that is depending on her/him to have an income.

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#4 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 01:39 PM
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Or, and I am playing devil's advocate, he's giving you the benefit of the doubt. Meaning he is an easy grader. I am a very easy grader. But I teach at the graduate level. Maybe your instructor knows you well enough by now and knows that you ran out of time, etc. Also, maybe your little snippet of an answer was better than most peoples' 2 paragraphs worth an answer. I would just go with it. Or, if it is really bothering you, maybe ask a classmate to see how their essay was graded (if you feel comfortable) Maybe he just grades leniently. As a student, I would prefer that an instructor graded leniently than harshly. As an instructor, sometimes its easier that way

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#5 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 01:47 PM
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Maybe your prof just made a mistake. It happens. Maybe the professor gave everyone points? Maybe check with another student, as someone else suggested. I would probably ask the prof about it, but it's up to you, of course.

Sometimes Blackboard (or other online teaching platforms) goes a little wonky. I have had some strange experiences grading work on Blackboard.
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#6 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 01:51 PM
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I'll agree that 7.5 points is a bit much for your answer, but it is at least a little right, and you never know what's going on. Maybe you answered related questions elsewhere on the test, so the prof knows you understand the material. Maybe the whole class bombed that question, or maybe he feels he didn't cover it adequately in class, so he figured it wasn't asked well and gave everybody half-credit for trying to answer it. I'd say that if overall you're satisfied with the course and evaluation methods, let this slide and see what happens at the next exam.

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#7 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 01:52 PM
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Yeah, that, to all of these ideas.

7.5/10 is 75%, which is a "C" - maybe your one(and-a-half)-liner was worth a "C" - expecially when compared with other students' answers.

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#8 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 02:04 PM
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Maybe your concise answer was correct. Longer is not always better. I won a contest in law school with a 1 paragraph answer, and others were like 3 pages. But one paragraph was all that was needed, one correct concise paragraph.

Your sentence looks correct and the professor was probably glad to not have to read through more space filler. And since you didn't give an example, you only got a 7.5.
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#9 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 02:44 PM
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Maybe he didn't read it.

Maybe he had a certain criteria--if they mention A they get 2 points, A&B, five points, etc.

Maybe he clicked wrong and gave you more points than you deserved.

Maybe he graded on a curve.

Who knows? You can ask him about it, if it bothers you.
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#10 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 03:32 PM
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maybe it was carryover halo effect from a wonderful answer to a previous question.

I thought you were going to say the tA's did the grading but personally, I wouln't complain if the grade was higher than expected.
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#11 of 19 Old 11-13-2008, 04:07 PM
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"am i the only one who is seriously bugged by this??"

No, I think it's terrible. I think your outrage is a sign of what a good student you must be. If you do ask the prof about it (and I think you should), please update with his answer.
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#12 of 19 Old 11-14-2008, 12:31 AM
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I personally try to grade on demonstrated knowledge, not demonstrated ability to blather. I have mostly taught math classes, and I give most of the points for setting up the questions correctly. You'll lose some marks for not getting the arithmetic right, but if you show me that you understand the concept, you'll get significant part marks.

It looks to me like you stated the concept; you just didn't explain it at length. I think it's worth roughly 5 marks. 7.5 might be a little generous, but I do not think it means that your prof is not reading the exams.

Also, do you know for a fact that it's the prof grading and not a TA? And if it's the prof, is it an experienced prof? Usually, the tough markers are the new eager beavers and more experienced instructors tend to grade in a less rigid, less cookbook-y way.

almost irrational
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#13 of 19 Old 11-14-2008, 09:39 AM
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but I do not think it means that your prof is not reading the exams.
You did give a correct answer, just brief and not complete. You don't know how everyone else answered-you might have been the only one who even tired!
I look at the whole picture when I grade. If most of the paper or exam is well done and one part is sketchy, I'm going to be more lenient. If the entire thing is poorly done I am less forgiving. I think the grade you got was generous but not enough to say it was never read. If it's eating away at you sit down with the prof and have an exam review.
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#14 of 19 Old 11-15-2008, 12:19 AM
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I've graded for professors who actually preferred shorter answers. It sounds generous but within reason.
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#15 of 19 Old 11-15-2008, 12:38 AM
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Honestly, I think he was very generous with you, but your answer does address the crux of the problem: that "truth" is a function of our experiences, and that a model of truth that depends on evidence (ie, testing by theories) is better than the correspondance theory of truth.

If I had to guess, I'd guess that half the answers were total bull****, a quarter were kind of on the right track (like yours) and the remaining quarter ranged from decent to excellent. Is your answer excellent? No, but you understood the question and what you do say is right.

I woudn't conclude that he isn't reading or that you got points you didn't earn.

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#16 of 19 Old 11-15-2008, 01:02 AM
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I wouldn't say that he doesn't read your exams. There is a very strong possibility that he is looking for a few key concepts. I am a grader for a graduate course and it gets annoying when people carry on for pages upon pages and say absolutely nothing. I usually skim for key ideas and key points rather than overall length. We very seldom give anything below a B if you put forth any effort and show some level of understanding. You have to try really hard to fail our course. Your single sentence probably showed more understanding and thought than some of the students that wrote out something much longer.

How many students are in your course? The course I am teaching has about 200 students and we try to comment and give feedback on all of the assignments. We constantly have students nagging about wanting their grades back. We have quizzes and students will nitpick every little thing that we do. It gets really frustrating because no matter what you do as a professor, somebody will complain. If it is an online course with Blackboard, that is even more reason to go easy on the professor. We are constantly having technical difficulties with it on the teaching end.
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#17 of 19 Old 11-15-2008, 11:52 AM
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I had a professor in college who wouldn't read our whole written exams. I found out because on the mid term I only knew the answer to the first 3 questions and not the last 2. They were all essay. The last 2, I wrote a short paragraph reprashing the question and saying I agreed and the last 2 paragraphs I wrote I really knew nothing about the topic but I had a great dog and wrote about him instead. Did that for 2 questions. Got a high B. No way the guy read it. No advice though as I was happy to have pased the exam.
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#18 of 19 Old 11-16-2008, 02:39 AM
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As far as being bugged by it: meh. There are any number of possibilities:

-generous grader
-giving you the benefit of the doubt as a good student
-online grading glitch
-skimming answers for key points and not overthinking the grading

There are others.

Please keep in mind that professors are real people. Honestly, one mistake on a 10-point question is not a big deal--certainly not worth reading into. Profs make mistakes. Profs suffer from sleep deprivation. Profs have other obligations: publication deadlines, conference presentations, etc. Occasionally profs overlook things, and that's true for adjuncts like myself, for tenure-track profs like DH, and for tenured profs like my advisor.

Deciding that your prof doesn't read your exams based on this one question, is just as ridiculous as it would be if he decided that you were a lazy or incompetent student based on your one lousy answer .

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#19 of 19 Old 11-16-2008, 06:04 AM
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I personally would talk to the professor about it. On one hand, he could be grading on a curve and like, everyone else did worse on the question then you, on another he could be looking for some specific points and the full sentence you wrote encompassed 7.5 of those points (seriously, I had one professor who said there were three types of people when answering essay questions 1) those who write a couple of paragraphs and get all the points. 2)People who can write a whole lot of nothing. 3) people who can write everything in the fewest number of words possible.) or... he is really not reading the answers, in which case you get screwed over by not being marked appropriately and someone else could very well be getting worse grades then they deserve. The worst I can see happening is you point out that you didn't deserve the 7.5 and he can tell you why you deserve the 7.5.

Philosophy teachers can be weird. Seriously. I took a phil cours once and one essay question about a statement (it was about if the statement was true or not and why) I wrote "False, It can't be prooven." (partially from boredom, partially from a sore hand) or something to that effect. An essay question, and I got full marks. Talked to the teacher, he said "Well you said it all."

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