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Thursday, February 25, 2010


Several students have asked about grades this week. Let’s start with what I said on pp. 9-10 of the Syllabus:

Your grade is based on the examinations you take, the 15 projects you produce or in which you participate, the formal presentation you make, the critiques you provide of other students’ products and presentations, and your class participation. An A represents Outstanding work; B Above Average; C Average; D Below
Average; F Unacceptable. You must complete all projects ON TIME. Late projects will negatively affect your grade! Dr. Strange will consult with the teaching associates before assigning a final grade.

Everybody starts with an A. If you want to know how to blow that A, just do any of the following and we will probably see you in EDM310 again next semester.

How to blow your A:
1. The failure to satisfactorily complete any of the projects for this course will result in a D or an F and you will have to repeat the course. ALL 15 PROJECTS must be satisfactorily completed to get a grade better than a D in this course. ALL means ALL! In other words, doing 14 (or less) satisfactorily but not 15 projects satisfactorily GUARANTEES that you will get a D or an F for the course.
2. You must correctly complete your Foliotek entries for this course in order to receive a passing grade in this course.
3. You MUST make your weekly posts to your class blog ON TIME (or in advance). Failure to do so will, most likely, result in a VERY POOR (D) grade in this course. DO NOT GET BEHIND IN THIS COURSE!
4. You MUST complete all required posts to your blog INCLUDING the post assigned for May 2, 2010. Failure to do the required post for May 2, 2010 will result in a D or an F in this class.
5. Failure to attend ALL class and lab sessions and the final exam will most likely result in a D or F.
6. Failure to use good grammar, good spelling, and your brain in doing your blog posts will blow your A.
7. Failure to be an active, self-directed learner will also blow that A.
But don’t blow it!

I really don’t like using force to get students to learn. If you are going to be a teacher, you will want your students to WANT to learn. They should not be forced, with threats of bad grades, to learn. I want everyone who takes this class to WANT to make an A and to WANT to do the work that will result in that grade. I want everyone in this class to do A work and get an A! Sadly, that is not the case. The best students do that. The others do not.

It seems to me extremely important that teachers WANT to learn. So if you do not fall into that category, if you are not eager to learn, you should think about a different career!

Now let’s turn to the questionnaire I posted on the Class Blog on Monday February 15 How's My A?. That’s 11 days ago. As of 8 am this morning (2/25/10) 36% of the students still enrolled in EDM310 have not completed that questionnaire. It is, therefore, correct to assume that if final grades were issued today, those who have not answered the questionnaire would not pass this course. I have not closed the questionnaire yet, but I soon will.

Let’s also count. I asked you to do that the first day of class. “ How many times did I say ‘Don’t be late.’ ” So let’s count how may times I said that in the section on grades in the Syllabus. Four. Maybe that was not enough.

Now let’s take a look at what you think about your progress in this course. Nine percent of you think you are not putting forth your best possible effort in EDM310. So...
here are other problem areas where students have not completed their assignments. And these are only those who completed the questionnaire. Forty-seven percent (47%) have not added an RSS feed for the class blog to their iGoogle page. Yes, you can keep up with what is happening on the class blog in other ways. But 29% say they are not reading the class blog daily. That can lead to lots of trouble with that A! Fifteen percent (15%) of those completing the questionnaire said they were behind in their work. So 36% + 15% means that there are far too many shaky or missing As. Forty percent or more have something missing on their blog, or something that does not work. And on it goes.

So what is your grade? You know better than I. Are you participating fully in the educational community I am trying to form in EDM310? Are you putting forth your best effort? Are you doing ALL of your assignments ON TIME? Are you asking for help as soon as you need it? Are you attending all classes and labs? Are you planning ahead, especially for your podcast which starts next week? Are you learning? Are you excited about learning?

You tell me. If Final Grades were distributed tomorrow, what grade would you give yourself? What grade would you give your classmates whose blog posts you read or don’t read because they have not been posted on time?

If you have friends in this course who have not yet understood that I mean it when I say do all your assignments ON TIME, please inform them before it is too late.

And for those of you who are leading the way in creating a wonderful learning community, and I am excited by the fact that this is happening, thank you!

Here is the Preliminary Summary of the Still Have Your A? questionnaire as of 8 am on Thursday February 24, 2010 - eleven days after it was posted on the class blog.

I have been told that should not think that I can undo 15 or so years of schooling which trained you that grades should be your focus and have you suddenly behave like learning was the most important part of being in school. I guess that is correct. But I am going to keep trying!

Can't remember whether you completed the questionnaire? Well... But to make you feel better, I have shared a Google Doc listing all students that had completed the Still Have Your A? Questionnaire by 8 am Thursday 2/25/10. I hope you name is on that list! And by the way, the form reports the exact time you submit the questionnaire in the form of hour:minute:second. Handy for determining exactly what happened when!


  1. question... i have done the questionnaire--- are the names listed at the top of it the people who have completed or who have not? I didn't see my name just wondering
    Brooksy Allen

  2. Not all names fit. I am preparing to block out the ones that show. Yes, you have completed the questionnaire. On time, no less! Thanks!

  3. Question about the RSS feed. Can you refresh my memory on what that is and how to add it?

    One more question: What would be considered housekeeping for the commen4Teachers? If a teacher post a powerpoint covering things they did in class, is that housekeeping?

  4. I have sent you an email on RSS. there is also a document available on the syllabus. Google has a good Help section on RSS feeds. And you can Google RSS..

    Are all the posts summaries of classroom activities? If so, let me assign you someone else. If not, pick another post that addresses some substantive issue.

  5. I've noticed that I am more likely to work promptly when I know that it is for a grade. I think that many students under-estimate how much of these assignments you see and how many are graded. I have a feeling that doing things like placing an RSS Feed on our iGoogle page, creating a Google spreadsheet for passwords, etc..., are actually being monitored and graded, or will be in the future. I think that the classes think that this is for their own personal benefit (which is also true), but are not for a grade.

    I think another problem is that people are relying on you to update us in the labs, so they are not reading the syllabus to see upcoming projects, or reading the class blog daily.

    Just a few thoughts...

  6. Thanks Rachel for participating in this important conversation. I hate grades as you already know. But I do think that I have a grasp of what students should be exposed to and try. I can't believe that RSS feeds for the class blog would not save time for everyone. But more importantly, they would help increase readership of the class blog which is essential. The way the class is now structured that is the way I communicate with students. We only have 5 weeks of "classes." All other weeks are only labs where I try and ask any questions posed. But it is not instruction. And it is not my communications channel. Instruction is through the materials found on the syllabus. Communication is through the blog. And you are correct when you say that students may not know what I can "see" just in my email box. I get every post by every student on every blog. I read them all. For all classes! Not just the ones in my lab sections. Anything in Google Docs I know exactly when it was done and by whom.

    As far as grades go, everybody has an A to start. I have even listed how to blow it. But that is not what I want. I want everyone to get an A. It has happened in 2 classes of EDM310. Students did the work - mostly on time. Completing the assignments in this class does not require deep thinking. The subject matter is not rocket science. It is just the doing of the work that is important. It must be done well, but most students already have most of the skills to do what I ask them to do. They just have to apply themselves. My wife is an excellent golfer. When she was able to reflect on what she was doing wrong and correct it herself, or go to a specialist who could address her problem, she became a fantastic golfer. In other words, when she could grade herself and take action she improved dramatically. That's what I want to have happen: students who can and do reflect on their own skills and abilities and take action to improve. If they are not interested in learning then the teaching profession would be much better off without them!

    Thanks so much for your comment. I hope this will be a continuing discussion! We have the beginnings of a real learning community in EDM310. Thanks for helping achieve that goal!

  7. Today I finally realized how this EDM 310 class is suppose to work. I sat down to do my work tonight before the Sun @ midnight deadline and it occurred to me that in order for this to work, it needs to be done by Tuesday at the latest.

    I looked ahead to my comment4teachers assignment and it lead me to the intrepidteacher blog (your pln friend I'm sure!) and I read about the success you had with making these connections last semester.

    The post before that (from this new amazing teacher I was reading about)was about having his students do it and the same problems we (or maybe just I) seem to be having. And the connection is not happening.

    I realized it's not working because before I can even write my own blog post for one of classmates to comment on, I need to 1st do these other assignments that people in places other than our virtual classroom are waiting on in there virtual classroom. For this learning experience and connections to work! For example, if I am to comment on a kids blog but all of the assignments aren't technically due until Sunday @ midnight(and being the horrible procrastinator that I am) now that child hasn't gotten a comment all week.

    It's not that I don't want to learn, everything just seems so overwhelming! But, thank goodness I've figured it out and after reading this (intreoid)teachers blog, my eyes are now opened to the experience you are trying to created. Now hopefully I can turn my grade around. Maybe this will help others too.

    Onto a different topic. I also noticed the problem with the hyperlink in last weeks blog assignment, but chose to ignore it then question it. Not a good way to be a proactive learner, I know!
    I also was unable to attend the lab session last Monday night in Fairhope due to a horrific stomach bug that took over my parents house. I failed to inform my instructors of the situation. Not a good way to be a proactive student either!

  8. Dr Strange.
    On behalf of our classroom and the students of Room 8 at Melville Intermediate School, in Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand I would like to thank all the students who have left comments on our site. Our studnets are very exciting to be starting blogging for 2010 and as you know having an audience is a huge incentive for students to publish work. The fact that a significant part of the comments that we are receiving are from the USA (which has a huge cultural influence on our students) has been a huge thrill for the students and I have seen the effects first hand. I would also like to thank Brittani from your class ( for her comment, she reviewed our students work and also mentioned the name of our school deputy principal. I have been trying to encourage staff to see the benefits of online publishing and this was a brilliant example that I was able to use with a staff member and say to her "see - the students work is being viewed around the world). It really has meant the students have a huge deal of enthusiasm for their work at the moment and I cannot thank you or your class members enough. If there's anything that you would require from our students please drop us a line and we can see if we would be able to help. Thank you once again.
    Mr Myles Webb and Room 8, Melville Intermediate School, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand.

  9. Dr. Strange,

    I've been thinking about some of your comments about grades. Especially, I was interested in your paragraph in this post about undoing 15 years of schooling...

    About grades... First off, the system is grade driven. Scholarships, entry into programs, all of it depends on grades. do I agree with it? No. But it is the system.

    In the classroom, about grades :
    I can tell you from experience that having a professor that focuses on a student's problem solving skills, creativity, ability to meet or exceed expectations, versus the grading scale, will be the best possibility for a lesson for students to enjoy learning and focus on just that.

    While earning my BS in Chemical Engineering, I had that very experience. It was a great lesson, and relief, as well as an awakening to redirect my approach to my coursework. I'll explain in a minute. High school was so focused on grades grades grades. My parents were more focused on learning not so much on grades, although I pulled in some good grades then. They may have thought differently if I didn't have good grades. Well, it just so happens that I was only pretty average in comparison to others when going to IIT after really doing great in high school. So I really wasn't going to be a superstar when it came to grades. BUT I was a great problem solver. Most classes focused on grades. Labs and certain teachers and the department chair had an eye for problem solvers, so it wasn't until those folks were giving me feedback that I realized the value of learning and performing versus getting a 92% or better in a class. Now don't get me wrong. Grades do matter, but an A without being able to use tools you had been taught is meaningless. I remember when a very published visiting professor for my Chemical Reactions and Kinetics class asked me if I would consider grad school, I about passed out. I looked around as if he couldn't be talking to me.. He was serious. First I said that my grades were very average. How would I do that? And he felt I was a great problem solver.. And then my response was that if I was guaranteed professors like him, that made me think, evaluated on my approach with the use of the tools he taught us, and was clear as a bell on the expectations, I would probably consider it strongly. But that wasn't the case. That class was tough, and I worked my tail off, and I earned a C that to this day, I have no regrets over..,. I came away a winner in that class. Maybe that sounds crazy, but I did know that stuff.

    Being a critical thinker helps a lot. Since returning to school I have noticed that there is a need for a recipe for every class. The students demand it, but it's a bad request. They've been spoon fed and given the recipe through high school so why do they now need to create and think out of the box? It's uncomfortable to not know the boundaries and the target is unknown as well. Confidence and thinking and doing versus do nothing is what I think needs to be taught and expected. That's the real world, isn't it?

    Keep in mind, I'm at least 20 years older than a lot of folks in the program. My point with that is that I've had experiences that have shaped my opinion and expectations when it comes to education. Give the students the freedom to succeed as well as to fail. Give them great feedback that centers around performance and meeting the course objectives. You're doing that already and I personally think that's the stuff that motivates people and gets them thinking in new directions.

    They may stop asking the most senseless questions "Is this on the test? Do I have to know this?" and just learn to be prepared for anything the teacher throws their way. That is an evolution that can surely happen, I believe.

  10. Class! You must read Jackie's response to my post on Grades. Listen to her carefully. Be especially observant to her comment on a class in which she "worked her tail off" and earned a C but it was still a class in which she was a winner. The grade was unimportant. Being a winner was. Being a problem solver was!

    I had a similar experience in college - also in a Chemistry class. My teacher was Dr. Pelham Wilder. I was a freshman at Duke taking a chemistry class for non-majors. After a few weeks Dr. Wilder gave us a test. I made a 26. The high score was 31. The average was in the low 20s. When we got our papers back everyone felt like crawling under our desk. Someone asked whether we all flunked. Dr. Wilder explained that the exam he had given us was the same exam that he had just given his Ph.D candidate as a final Ph.D. qualifying exam. He did not expect us to know it all. And that was OK. The task we had was to become learners, not grade seekers. It is a lesson I try to follow every day. What am I learning? What can i do better today than I did yesterday? What can other people do that if I could do the same things I would be more efficient, enjoy life more, contribute more to others. I do not need someone to "grade" me. But I sure as heck need to be able to grade myself. That is exactly what Jackie is saying here. Her evaluation of her Chemical Reactions and kinetics class: winner! Enough said.

    Thanks Jackie for participating in this dialogue. A real learning community shares ideas, reservations, thoughts, suggestions, skills and techniques. I think we have the start of such a learning community in EDM310 this semester. Thanks so much for helping that to be possible!

    And no set recipes for this course! Try something. If it works great. If it doesn't, we learned something. And nothing can be better than learning something! But if we do nothing, or only the prescribed, we have little chance of changing the world. I want to change the world!

  11. Some assignments might be shorter than others, but they add up to a lot of work and time. I have done all surveys.