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Jan 3, 2005 6:00 pm


Three Brief Announcements ...



At Education News.org, Jonathan Dresner has published"Towards a Unified Theory of Grading." It's a form of communication, he says, but all the participants in the conversation need to understand what is expected of it.

Over on the HNN mainpage, I have a review essay about"The Crisis in History." The University of Georgia's Peter Charles Hoffer, Ron Robin at Israel's University of Haifa, and Jon Wiener of the University of California at Irvine disagree with each other about the Ambrose, Ellis, Goodwin, and Bellesiles controversies. In a related matter, Northwestern's Jim Lindgren reports that, in a CNN2 interview, Garry Wills places Bellesiles among"very good con men."

Francis Fukuyama's"How Academia Failed the Nation: The Decline of Regional Studies" in Saisphere is well worth a read.

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Jonathan Dresner - 1/4/2005

I'm actually much more likely to use "highest grade norming" on a test than on papers. And I've been moving away from in-class tests towards much more writing and discussion-based evaluations, so it should make it easier to be a performance absolutist.


Carl Patrick Burkart - 1/3/2005

I'ld like to second Dr. Dresner's call for abstract standards instead of relative grading. Although I have never graded on a curve, it is hard not to evaluate papers relatively. In particular, it is hard not to think that perhaps the assignment was too difficult or inadequately explained to the students. This leads to grading the best existant paper as an A and judging the other papers from this standard. Grade inflation is rarely far behind.

Recently, however, I have been teaching assynchronous distance courses. Relative grading is impossible in these courses. I have been forced to adopt detailed abstract standards for grading papers. It takes a while to come up with the standards for each assignment, but it makes it much easier to grade and to explain the grades to students. Best of all, you can give the detailed standards to the students beforehand so that they know that they will know exactly what is expected of them.


David Lion Salmanson - 1/3/2005

Fukuyama's article ought to be titled "How the government failed..." Once the federal FLAS (Foreign Language Area Studies) money dried up after the Cold War was over, most of the Area Studies centers went into decline or closed.

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