Monday, August 24, 2009

Machine Graded Exams Again

I've written about multiple choice machine [not multiple choice with explanation] graded exams over on Moneylaw but not here on Classbais because I was not sure there was a class or entitlement factor involved. Now I am not so sure.

First my view is that professors who give 100% or even more the 50% machine graded exams are shirking their teaching obligations. To me there are two huge problems. First, I think every teacher claims to teach analysis which means the recognition of ambiguity and gray areas. Yet they test on something else when the use machine graded exams. The students know this ahead of time and alter their "listening" and note taking. There could be exceptions but the writing skills needed would exceed that of anyone I know. Second, teaching has a diagnostic component. You read answers to spot reasoning and writing problems. For example, if 25 people in a 100 person class have the same misunderstanding of, let's say, proximate cause and that is the reason their answer goes off track, you cannot know this using a machine graded exam. This means you do not know how to improve your teaching the next year in order to help them through analysis. Whatever they say, most users of machine graded exams just do not want to grade. I dislike grading as much as anyone but believe it's part of teaching when done right.

I am not sure this has much to do with class and privilege but this did occur to me. Virtually every teacher hired by a law school graduated from an elite school. One of two things has happened. First, maybe their teachers at those schools used machine graded exams. If so, it explains the decline in intellectualism and the increase in "technicianism" among beginning teachers. Second, maybe their teachers did not use machine graded exams. If that is the case, they must view themselves as slumming it when they give machine graded exams at schools ranked lower than the ones from which they graduated.

I've always wondered why teachers from elite schools typically regard their own students as unworthy candidates for law teaching jobs. It strikes me signifying doubt about their own training and teaching. A version of that would be why their own students to not deserve the quality of teaching and evaluation they got. Of course this assumes the elite schools do not rely on machine graded exams and I do not know that either way. I just know I would not vote to hire a new law teacher with a high GPA if I knew it reflected performance on machine graded exams.

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