Archive for: May, 2010


May 07 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Exams graded.

Not at work, even though there's shit that needs to get done.

Preparing to brew my first batch of beer in months.

That is all.

5 responses so far

Grading Philosophy

May 06 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Does the final grade for a student depend entirely on the numbers, or is there a certain element of whether or not they learned the material intrinsic in the final analysis? This was a discussion I had with a colleague of mine the other day when talking about our classes, and her argument made a lot of sense to me. Her point was that if the students did not do well on a particular exam, but demonstrated knowledge of that exam's material on the cumulative final, she would use the "grade" on the final section to replace the exam grade. She did not tell the students this (to avoid a lack of effort on the midterms), but put it into practice.

It is certainly easier to hold up the numbers and say that a student earned an 'X' grade based on their performance, but I've been thinking whether or not a strict adherence to the numbers actually has any value in actually rewarding the students for learning. This is particularly relevant to me as I sit in front of my class taking their final this morning, because their second exam was a blood bath with an average of 45%. But, about 25% of the final is on the same material, which should give me an idea about what they learned from that portion of the class. Opportunity or dangerous precedent?

Obviously, this type of policy would favor the students in the class who, to this point, are not doing all that well. Is it fair to give them the opportunity to boost their grade when others have done so by performing when they had to? Honestly, I don't know. Like with just about everything relating to teaching, I'm figuring this out as I go. If our objective, however, is for the students to learn the material during the course then it stands to reason that they should be rewarded for 'getting it' even if it doesn't click until the end.

16 responses so far


May 05 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

We just acquired equipment that will make some of the key research functions we were doing tremendously more simple than they were previously. One the one hand, Yay for make our lives so much easier! On the other, how many fucking hours did we waste doing it the old way?!?!??!

Of course every technological advance results in something like this and until the new thing comes along the old one was the best way to do it, but still.....

3 responses so far

The biggest arguments for the smallest stakes

May 04 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

This week I am working on revising a small paper that was driven by collaborative research and mainly the work of an undergrad. It's a decent paper but nothing too exciting, and as such, we sent it to a small specialty journal. There are stories that belong in these journals and getting it out and published in some form is always better than letting it languish on a desk.

When we got the reviews back it was a classic case of Reviewer 3 syndrome (the video for which, unfortunately, appears to have been taken down). Reviewers 1 & 2 had a few minor and helpful comments, but thought the paper was fine. Reviewer 3, OTOH, went apoplectic on the thing. R3 left dozens of comments throughout the manuscript, most of which with garden variety Devil's advocate shit that can not be answered and isn't the focus of the paper. On two occassion R3 pointed out one sentence and stated "This point would make the basis of a better, more scientific paper." More scientific? WTF?

I started thinking about the times I have had this happen to me, when one reviewer 1) clearly has too much time on their hands, 2) gets themselves worked up over minor issues to the point that they think the world will end if your minor paper in a tiny journal were to be published, and 3) it's clear by the end that they went through the thing a couple of extra times just looking for anything to shit on. I came to realization that this has only happened in the small journals I have sent papers to*. Interesting.

My experience in terms of publishing in a variety of journals is pretty broad, from the little mags to big ones, and the more I thought about it the more this pattern emerged to me. I have certainly gotten bad reviews from big journals, but in those cases the message is usually "I don't like this for these big reasons", end of story. With the small journals I have on several occasions had to write lengthy responses to a mountain of minutiae, including a vicious attack on writing style. Not whether it is written in a "science" way, but just the writing style I use that the reviewer somehow found offensive to their very core ideals. Where does this mindset come from?

Is it the reviewers that will review for these journals? Maybe, but I review for some of them and have never had the urge (or time) to analyze a manuscript in this manner. Is it the editors of smaller journals having a full time job on top of editing? Possibly. Is it the level of work that gets sent to these journals? I don't know what the reasoning, but getting things published in smaller journals seems to take far more of my effort than the stories that are better suited for larger journals, making it far less appealing to get undergraduate-driven research published.

*Fully acknowledging that this can and does happen in some proportion in all journals.

9 responses so far

A step in the right direction

May 03 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

When I got my mail on Friday there was a letter from our research office. I had submitted a proposal for a small internal competition a while back to cover a grad student summer salary and a trip this summer and seeing the letter I knew that the decision was contained within. With the trail of proposals currently lying dead in my wake I immediately assumed that I was going to add this one to the pile, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that the proposal has been funded.

This is the same competition I applied for last year with too much data and too promising a project. So, this year I changed my approach and used a different project and was more explicit about how this money would help obtain funding in the future. Obviously, that made a difference and now I can spend the start-up money I had earmarked for the student and trip on other things.

It's a small victory, but a good first step.

9 responses so far

« Newer posts