Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Grade Inflation

There is a thread going on, on ESL Cafe, talking about "integrity in university grading."  If you've never taught at a Korean uni, you probably won't have any idea of what it's like and assume it's kind of the same as it was when you went to uni back in the Western world somewhere  Well, it's not. 

Standards here are extremely lax and getting into uni is basically a guarantee of getting your certificate 4 (for the girls) or 6 (for the boys) years later.  Homework, studying, reports: they all seem optional. 

Anyway...some of my coworkers stress continually about this.  Talk, talk, talk endlessly and compare it all to how it is back home.  In fact, it's often these same people that compare daily life kind of stuff to how it is back home and they find that Korea can never measure up.  This is not really a good way to live, because it just causes too much stress and your life becomes this weird warped reality.

So what should you do?  Just chill out.  Take a few deep breaths.  Go with the flow.  Yes, we all know that academic standards are non-existent in Korea, and that cheating/plagiarism is rampant but you can't change the system, you know?   What you can change is how you run your classes.

How does this work out in my classes?  They are easy.  Far easier than any uni-level (or even high school!) language class back home would be.  I have such low expectations that it would be almost impossible for students not to meet them.  It's a win-win for everyone.  I freely give out A/B's for moderate efforts and C/D's for minimal effort.  Only the truly terrible students get "F."  Seniors will always get at least a "D" for showing up/doing a little homework, no matter how bad their test scores.  This reduces my stress considerably.

Testing?  Of course students will cheat, which is why I do speaking tests 1-1 with me, where it's impossible to cheat.  Written kind of tests?  I spell it out to them before.  If I see a cellphone-fail!  Writing on desk/arm-fail!  Talking to their friend-fail!  And of course I make multiple tests with slightly different questions and in a random order.  Assignments?  If you copy off the internet-fail!  Copy off your friend-you both fail!  I essentially have no late policy for assignments.  I always give them 2 weeks to do it, and after that, it's a "0."  It's actually quite simple and doesn't cause me any stress.  If you spell it to the students beforehand, who can really complain to you when you give them an "F."

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