Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hop to the Co-Op

The good folks over at Concurring Opinions are running a fabulous series of posts about pedagogy and exam grading, and I've contributed probably way too much to the comments. And so should you--the discussion is lively and interesting.

Here is a list of the links and snippets from the posts:

Dave Hoffman on Exam Review Culture

The basic story would go like this. At some schools - including the one where I teach - there is a strong culture of encouraging students to come to professors' offices after receiving grades to review the exam and find ways to improve their performance. To my mind, this is a very good thing - not just for students, who can be taught to do better on an economically consequential activity - but for professors, who can figure out exactly how badly written exams confuse test-takers. Casual inquiry among conference participants suggests that a culture of encouraging colleagues to undertake individualized exam review is more common at schools outside of the traditional top tier. Why?

Dave Hoffman on Replicability, Exam Grading, and Fairness

This is an old debate, made more salient today by my recent experiences at the AELSC One the major messages of the ELS proponents was replicability: put your data online; record your methods (even your syntax); and make sure that further researchers can recreate your results. This raised for me the question of what is an empirical legal studies approach to grading?

Kaimi Wenger on Who Are We Teaching, Anyway?

In any class, there will be a range of student ability, and student ability will correspond broadly to ideal teaching method; this creates a tension. That is, there will be students who catch the material easily on the first reading, there will be students who need extended exercises and discussion to understand the material, and there will be students at various in-between points on the spectrum. Students of different aptitude will respond best to different types of teaching. In particular, struggling students are likely to benefit most from repetition and extended discussion of basic core concepts, while other students may become bored and tune out if the class is moving too slowly.

Paul Ohm on Exam Grading and the Standard Deviation

Imagine you give an exam with two questions, each supposedly worth 50% of the final grade. Imagine further you grade both questions and properly normalize the scores for each one to a 50 point scale. (I'm not so sure all professors normalize properly, but that's a different problem.)What do you do if the standard deviations in the two normalized grade populations vary widely?

In other words, imagine that question one elicits a long, flat curve: the lowest score is much lower than the highest score, and there is a lot of variation in the scores in between, while question two elicits a compact curve with a very high peak that drops off quickly in both directions.

Is it legitimate (fair, proper) simply to add the normalized scores for
questions one and two to derive the final score? Does this cause the first
question to exert an unfairly disproportionate effect on the final curve?

The reflections I contributed were based on my experiences as a teaching assistant at the college level; no doubt the pedagogical purposes and methods differ in the law school context. I also offered my perspective as a once-and-future law student, 4L, etc. But please do hop to the Co-Op and weigh in your own thoughts, whether you are law school graduates or law school professors.


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