Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Graders for Graduates

Graders or 'teaching assistants' just don't work for graduate-level work.

Dr. David Black has a good article on "graders," those people who work for professors and grade tests and papers but who do not know what is going on in class. Nearly every time I have been graded down on a paper or any subjective work, it has been by a grader.

This past year I have had a tough time with Dr. David Hogg's graders in Church History. I began to recognize their handwriting, and if my paper happened to get in one grader's pile, I'd get an A. If it got in another grader's pile, it was a B- or C every time even though I wrote the same format every time. To Dr. Hogg's credit, he himself graded the final exam.

Once over ten years ago at Fuller it was Dr. Chuck Kraft's grader whom I unintentionally embarrassed before Dr. Kraft. At an appointment with Dr. Kraft, I asked him why I was graded so low in a course of his. I didn't want a change in the grade, just to know what was wrong so it would not happen again.

He couldn't answer the question, but instead turned to his teaching assistant who was hiding in the back of the office. He couldn't answer the question either. The reality was probably that he himself had a lot of finals work to do and graded on a curve for the class. I got stuck in the middle of the curve.
Dr. Kraft told me that despite the difficulty of changing a class grade with the registrar, that he would order it done, and told the now angry TA to file the paperwork with the registrar. I thanked Dr. Kraft and left his office happy.

As I was leaving I ran into a friend named Jane Anne Pratt from Dallas who had Dr. Kraft's next appointment. The TA came out of the office as we were standing there on the balcony overlooking the garden court. He looked at me and said, "You know, some people are just not cut out for graduate work!" Jane Anne gasped and couldn't believe he said that.

The TA never followed through on changing the grade.