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Comment Re:Use Class Rank (Score 1) 264

You seem to be presuming that a curve is lowering grades to distribute them, when the only time I was graded on a curve, it was an increase to distribute them.

My definition of "graded on a curve" is that the cutoffs are set after the test is given, based on the performance of the students on the exam so as to (approximately) get a desired grade distribution. For all the reasons that other people have said, I think this is a shitty way to grade.

I'm not arguing hard tests are bad*, but the instructor should set the test based on what portion of the material is worthy of each grade. In your case, maybe the instructor says "hey, I know this is a hard exam, so 60% is going to be a C". (They don't necessarily need to tell the class this, just know it and try damn hard to stick to it.) The important thing is that the scales are set by the instructor based on how much mastery of the material he or she feels is needed to hit that level.

This isn't a hard line in reality -- for example the scores could come back and the instructor goes "damn, that was a lot easier/harder than I thought it was going to be" and maybe adjusts things a bit, or maybe they plan 65% to be the cutoff between two grades but then there's a cluster of scores right at 65% so they bump it a little to one side or the other -- but I think the latter is definitely an ideal to strive for. And that's true even if the instructor sets their expectations and hence the scores based on the grade distribution they want -- it's still a different mindset, and I think that both that mindset is important as well as not making your students compete against one another directly.

(* I do think that working hard to stratify students is probably counterproductive to what is supposed to be the goal of education, which is to teach. But let's not go there for this argument.)

Comment Re:Too many people like it inflated (Score 1) 264

Faculty love grade inflation because they spend less time dealing with pissed off students and helicopter parents

That's not even a primary motivation, though it may be a side benefit. (IANAProfessor, but I was the instructor (not TA) for two semesters of a class on compilers.)

Dealing with grades is a lot of stressful work. You have to worry about consistence between students. You have to worry about where to set the cutoffs in a way that's fair. You have to worry about suspected cheating, and deciding whether you have enough evidence to pursue the matter. You have to deal with setting lateness policies and deal with lateness excuses. And like you said, you have to deal with the occasional student complaints.

But even beyond that, I'm under the probably-biased impression (because I can't actually cite anything for this) that there's some evidence that if you remove the pressures of grades from the students, they'll actually learn better. So as a result, there are a fair number of very student-heavy teachers who don't like grades from a pedagogical standpoint.

I'd want to look into that last bit a bit more before I took a definitive side, but if that evidence were to hold out, in some respect there's nothing to even fix about grade inflation.

Comment Re:The whole system needs to change (Score 1) 264

If you just want to give either pass or fail, then I would say that you do not NEED a grade from this kind of classes.

Sure, but there are institutional difficulties with pass/fail courses, for instance in the case that I mentioned. I don't even know if taking a course pass/fail and passing it will count toward graduation requirements in a typical.

Now obviously the ideal solution to this is to change those difficulties, but that requires buy-in from not just campus-wide committees but also things like potential employers or grad schools who will (/may) be looking at your transcripts. (Actually I took a weird route through school into a job. Do entry-level employers look at transcripts? :-) Maybe not so much a problem.) I suspect seeing a lot of pass/fail courses would seem like a red flag.

Going A-F has some issues I'll admit, but... it's at least an interesting idea and worth thinking about what it's worth taking from it. (For instance, what about doing A-C-F? Less inflation than A-F, but not as many of the stratification problems that come with A-B-C-D-F. Or maybe do mostly A-C-F, but have very thin bands for B and D so the cutoff isn't so sharp. I don't know.)

Comment Re:Use Class Rank (Score 2) 264

IMO, there's also another glaring flaw in Johnson's premise that students gave better student evaluations of teachers who graded more leniently. There is a HUGE assumption there that the various teachers running the same classes were all equal in their quality of teaching. Why is it so difficult to believe that some teacher was able to reach and educate more of his students than someone else?

I can't speak to that, but I will share another "student evaluations somewhat incentivize the wrong things" bit I've seen discussed in a couple papers. One of the big buzzwords in teaching is "active learning", i.e. actually having your students do some work to figure things out rather than just lecture at them. There's good evidence that heavily incorporating active learning does tremendous good for student learning; if you look at students' long-term recall (e.g. in the next course), even relatively mediocre teachers (still measured by their students' long-term learning) who do a lot of active learning probably do about as well or better than the absolute best lecturers.

What happens during student evaluations? Students complain "the teacher isn't teaching" and "why do I have to learn everything myself", and the teacher takes a hit on the evaluations.

Comment Re:Use Class Rank (Score 1) 264

Teachers who grade on a curve don't understand what a GPA is meant to represent.

Or they're choosing to use material that is more difficult than most of the students can handle, so the top students can better stand out with their mastery of the material.

But... that's not grading on the curve.

Sure, it's setting your expectations based on what will produce a bell curve or uniform distribution of grades or whatever your goal is, but those are still very different things: grading on a curve retrospectively sets cutoffs to get the grade distribution you want regardless of the material, while making the material difficult proactively sets your expectations before people have even taken the test.

The former of those, at least, is bad for actually getting your students to learn. The latter... well, I don't know exactly, but it's somewhere between "much less bad" and "good".

Comment Re:Seriously? (Score 1) 359

It would be easier to comprehend and your case would be much stronger if you used decimal points instead of commas, and commas instead of decimal points. If we can't all agree on such a simple thing as decimal points vs commas, then we'll never get everybody aboard the SI system.

So, your
1km = 1000m = 100.000cm
is always better as
1km = 1000m = 100,000cm

But . . . . each to his own.

Comment Re:The whole system needs to change (Score 1) 264

I think this is a very insightful comment.

I have some experience from when I was a grad student both teaching at the college level and participating in a reading group on teaching, and grading is a very difficult issue for pretty much the reasons you describe. I think the ideal situation would be if more classes would/could be taught pass-fail.

There was actually a class at my university -- admittedly, sort of a special-purposes class -- where the prof wanted to teach it pass fail but it wasn't allowed to be graded in that way. So he just said "okay, fine; I'll grade it nominally A-F, but the only grades I'll actually give out are A and F." Like I said this was a special-purpose class that would have been somewhat unfair to grade more traditionally and pretty fair to grade with a heavy focus on attendance, but it's at least an interesting idea. Assuming you think the purposes of a class is to help the students learn rather than attempt to rank the student's somewhat arbitrarily, there are good reasons to think doing something like that even in a more normal class would better accomplish your goals.

Comment Re:Bad ruling (Score 5, Insightful) 261

Exactly. I have no problem with rulings like this, as long as Valve can be sued for fraud if they use the words 'buy', 'own' or 'purchase' anywhere in their advertising. A quick glance that the Steam web site shows it listing 'Top Sellers' and says 'buy it once, play on Mac, PC or Linux'. If they are not allowing you to buy the game, then this is fraudulent advertising.

Comment Re:You are not reading history. (Score 2) 279

So first, from my informal observations I think you'd find O'Caml much more commonly used than either of those for academic projects in compiler research.

Second, don't look at it from the point of view of what the researchers are writing their programs in, but rather look at what languages they're analyzing and what they're using to do it. And even though the researchers are writing in O'Caml or whatever, the programs they're interested in looking at are usually C, C++, or Java, because those are what is used out there in the real world. Java has a different suite of tools (SOOT is popular), but if you're looking at someone doing work work either on compiler optimizations for or on some kind of analysis of C or C++ code, chances are quite good they'll be using LLVM to generate their IR.

Comment Re:Thank you for replying Timothy (Score 1) 2219

Thanks for your response. Keep them coming.

What I think would help the most is to display a small box at the top of every page on the beta site that lists all the major problems you've identified that you know have to be fixed before the new site can become the default. Ideally, each one should be a link to a page that explains the problem in more detail. This will help us to understand that you really are listening, and trust you not to plow ahead with something that's obviously currently broken.

The problem isn't that the beta site is broken. The problem is that we don't trust you to fix it, because we don't understand why you broke it in the first place and we're afraid you don't think it's broken. Please, put our fears to rest! :-)

Comment Re:Comment filter (Score 1) 2219

I tried the beta this morning. There was no obvious way to show only the comments rated 4* and above. There are ways of seeing funny or insightful posts, but you don't get to control how many.

Did you notice the little gear menu, to the right of the links for funny/insightful/etc.?

What does seem to be missing is collapsed comments - comments that are scored below a certain threshold being displayed as a single line that I can click on to expand them.

Comment Re:No. (Score 1) 2219

I don't think you have understood. We don't want you to slow down. We want you to stop; reverse; appologise for being so out of touch with your user base; and promise to never do anything so stupid again.

Not quite. That's what we THINK we want. What we REALLY want is slightly different.

We don't want you to say you'll slow down, because we hear that as "continue to do exactly the same boneheaded thing you were going to do, just delayed for awhile."

But we don't really want you to stop and go backwards. What we want is for you to make sure that you're not leaving anything important behind when you do move forward. Lots of us have our own little irritations with things we consider to be "broken" in the beta site - my big one is that I couldn't see a way to set up abbreviated comments (where I see only a single line for comments that are scored below my threshold, but I can click on it if I decide I want to expand any specific comment). I have that now, but on the beta site, it appears to be missing. Others have complained about other functionality that seems to be missing. We need to be assured that you're not going to plow ahead without these features.

That doesn't mean you have to go backwards, because Lord knows the old site has some issues that need fixing. But remember that if you alienate your user base in an attempt to attract more users, you'll be left with nothing, because the existing user base is the only thing that makes Slashdot worth a damn. Nobody comes here to read your content, they come here to read ours.

Comment Re:And that's exactly what I asked for. (Score 1) 2219

I could go on with this list extensively, but know that your audience understands this kind of marketspeak and translate it immediately into "We follow this policy that we know you will hate because we think it will improve our revenue."

...EVEN IF THAT'S NOT HOW YOU MEANT IT. Understand that we'll translate it this way anyway, so be careful what you say.

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