Session Type

Presentation

Start Date

6-7-2011 4:00 PM

Keywords

misconceptions, assumptions, expected grade distributions, evidence-based teaching, educational development, grade inflation

Primary Threads

Teaching and Learning Science

Abstract

As we know with students, unseating misconceptions and deeply held personal myths is a challenging but necessary part of learning. As scientists, we are accustomed to questioning hypotheses and evaluating evidence. However, as science educators, it can be difficult to recognize our own assumptions about teaching/learning, and how they may be affecting our practise.

In this session, we will review the literature, weigh the evidence, and discuss misconceptions surrounding grade distributions in science courses. (In a course, is there an expected or ideal grade distribution? An ideal average? Are deviations from expected grade distributions indicative of problems? Are science courses "harder" than non-science courses, which should be reflected in grade distributions?)

Recent cases in Canadian universities have highlighted the controversy surrounding grade distribution policies (Petz, 2010). Approaches to teaching and assessment (and, potentially, tenure and promotion) of science educators may be impacted by university/faculty/departmental grading expectations. A brief overview of the literature will be followed by directed discussion.

Possible questions for debate/discussion:

1. What are the current practises/policies at our own institutions/departments?

2. What effects do the misconceptions have on science students? Faculty members?

3. How can improvements in teaching/learning be assessed (i.e., do improvements in grades indicate improved teaching/learning)?

4. Is grade inflation actually occurring in science courses? (And, if so, is this a major concern?)

5. What strategies are most effective for exploring the topic with colleagues (faculty/TAs)?

Reference:
Petz, S. 2010. Alberta prof asked to resign over grades dispute. Maclean’s Magazine Blog: http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2010/12/31/alberta-prof-asked-to-resign-over-grades-dispute/ Retrieved May 31, 2011.


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Jul 6th, 4:00 PM

Science Education Mythbusters: Challenging the idea of expected grade distributions and “anomalous grades”

As we know with students, unseating misconceptions and deeply held personal myths is a challenging but necessary part of learning. As scientists, we are accustomed to questioning hypotheses and evaluating evidence. However, as science educators, it can be difficult to recognize our own assumptions about teaching/learning, and how they may be affecting our practise.

In this session, we will review the literature, weigh the evidence, and discuss misconceptions surrounding grade distributions in science courses. (In a course, is there an expected or ideal grade distribution? An ideal average? Are deviations from expected grade distributions indicative of problems? Are science courses "harder" than non-science courses, which should be reflected in grade distributions?)

Recent cases in Canadian universities have highlighted the controversy surrounding grade distribution policies (Petz, 2010). Approaches to teaching and assessment (and, potentially, tenure and promotion) of science educators may be impacted by university/faculty/departmental grading expectations. A brief overview of the literature will be followed by directed discussion.

Possible questions for debate/discussion:

1. What are the current practises/policies at our own institutions/departments?

2. What effects do the misconceptions have on science students? Faculty members?

3. How can improvements in teaching/learning be assessed (i.e., do improvements in grades indicate improved teaching/learning)?

4. Is grade inflation actually occurring in science courses? (And, if so, is this a major concern?)

5. What strategies are most effective for exploring the topic with colleagues (faculty/TAs)?

Reference:
Petz, S. 2010. Alberta prof asked to resign over grades dispute. Maclean’s Magazine Blog: http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2010/12/31/alberta-prof-asked-to-resign-over-grades-dispute/ Retrieved May 31, 2011.