Friday, October 19, 2012

About my chemistry project...

Last winter I told you how Professor Bush gave me an F on a major project, and the Registrar declined to process my request for an appeal. Over the next few months, I kept on asking the University to review the grade, and finally just this September the Registrar, while rejecting my request to argue the appeal in person with Prof. Bush in attendance,  agreed to send my written appeal on to the Department Committee.

Two weeks ago I got the response to my appeal. Not surprisingly, it was rejected in whole. I still think it was a pretty good project and I've posted it online so you can judge for yourself. You know it's really hard to get an F in Education: they generally mark on a curve, going from a high of A+ to a low of B. A grade of C would be a rarity, and an F is unheard of.

So how bad was my project? Well, you can see it was nineteen pages, so I don't think I skimped on length. The assignment to was produce a lesson cycle of three Science classes, and I chose Grade Eleven Chemistry. I included four lessons because I wanted one of them to be a lab (the prof asked for an "activity" to be included) and I found I needed four classes to set up sufficient background for the lab I wanted to do.

It's hard to see how I could get an F on this project. I did an awful lot of work; you'll  see that my project starts with an analysis of the whole curriculum for both Grade 10 and 11, so I could make sure that my lessons were on target with what the students already knew and what they were expected to learn over the course of the year. And yet the department's Review Committee makes no comment about the quality of my work. They say only that:

"...we believe that the expectations and evaluations of this course were well explained and transparent.  The final assignment...(was) marked accordingly, and this approach is consistent with Faculty practises. We therefore find no basis to uphold this challenge."

If you read between the lines, I think you will see that the Committee is saying that I got a failing grade because I failed to follow instructions. I don't know about that. I invite Professor Bush to post some examples of other projects where the students did follow instructions and see if their work was clearly different from mine. What I find a little disturbing is that while the Committee denied my request to argue the mark in person, they do not seem to have denied that privilege to Professor Bush. It is hard to see how they would have arrived at their written judgement independently unless those words were virtually put in their mouths by the professor. They certainly seem to have accepted someone's argument that the quality of the work was not a relevant factor to consider in assigning the mark.

I still think it was a pretty good assignment. The fact is, I agree that I'm a little bit sketchy when it comes to following instructions, because I don't like to be micro-managed. For that, I accept the fact that I may get lower grades than other people: where they are getting A's I expect B's or C's at the worst. I don't mind that. But an F is going pretty far, especially in Education where they mark on a "curve".

One other factor that nobody would agree to count in my favor: all the other students worked in groups, but I did my project alone. So I actually did three times as much work as everyone else. Why didn't I just join a group? Well, it's a little hard to find people willing to work with you when the professor has single you out as a troublemaker, the way Professor Bush did on several occasions. I didn't complain about the extra work, but I think it should have been recognized in the grade appeal.

Andby the way, to quote Professor Appel,  I wonder if it's "consistent with Faculty practises" to make a guy wait ten months to appeal a grade on a term paper?

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