open email to a course lecturer

as for the grade-entry. yick, of course.
but not *nearly* as bad when the problems
are presented in their natural order as when
they’re *randomly* ordered.

this i consider an insult to me:
it’s *very* frustrating paging around looking
for scores and checking for completeness
because some student wouldn’t take the time
to organize their own work (as if their time
were somehow much more valuable than mine).

some instructors require very rigid standards
in formatting (name and date in upper right,
staple in upper left, etcetera etcetera).
it’s good for me as a grader when they do
but i never ran my own lectures that way
and sure wouldn’t ask anyone to.

properly-ordered copy is another story.
i’ll penalize Out Of Order starting with HW3.

but the real issue is always:
how “rigorous”… how “correct”, really…
should the *writing* be.
answer: much *more* than what i’m seeing.

there’s some amazing good work in these stacks.
and some embarrassingly careless stuff too.
i need to see *full sentences*
with all the articles (a, an the)
ENGLISH HAS ARTICLES
and having *subjects*
SENTENCES HAVE SUBJECTS
(that are clearly named: “it” is seen everywhere
but “it” is often unidentified by any language
on its page)
and with its *words spelled out*
(the sign of equality, =, for example,
must *not* be used as if it were
shorthand for “is”):
CODE IS NOT SHORTHAND ENGLISH.
(one special case deserves mention here:
$\Rightarrow$ (the logical “implies” symbol)
appears essentially at random on many pages.
faculty do this, too. no use trying to penalize it.
still. yick.)

but much the hardest issues in reading
sketchy telegraph-style hide-the-weakness
student work comes out in the little words like
“for” and “and” and “so”. the logic gets
pretty twisted.
WORDS HAVE MEANINGS
.

i end up spending a *lot* of time trying to resolve
things that the student darn well *ought* to have
tried to make clearer.

some of them know this and write badly *on purpose*.

so let me ask you to urge them to take
COMMENTS LIKE THESE
seriously.

and to code carefully.
f \not= f(x)
and stuff like that.

i’ve gotta get back to marking.
sorry for the blown deadline.
i’ll try to see you when i drop off papers
later today.
OT

Advertisements

  1. recent candidates for the “stock phrase” stock:
    DON’T EXPECT MINDREADING
    DON’T SUBMIT THE OUTLINE
    SAY IT WITH CODE

    encountered today:
    “If x is even,
    adding one to it will
    make it an odd number”.

    this is an outstanding example
    of an
    UNBOUND PRONOUN
    since “it” has two *different*
    meanings here (if the entire
    sentence is treated as
    meaningful at all).

    students don’t *want* to call things
    by their names (since they might
    get those wrong). so unbound
    “it” *abounds* in the work i’m
    considering this semester.

    as far as i know, i’m the only person
    alive who thinks this is worth
    trying to correct.

  2. ONE SEMESTER LATER, TO SOMEONE ELSE;
    I CAN NEVER FIND THESE THINGS IN G”GLE


    i’ve looked at four
    (of the six) exercises and made
    a bunch of corrections and other
    comments.

    and maybe four is a good number.
    a couple of these were pretty trivial,
    of course… but presumably things will
    get harder.

    “proofy” problems in particular promise
    to present many of the usual difficulties;
    for example, many students want to *omit*
    what should be considered *crucial* pieces
    (quite often even the *most* crucial pieces
    of a given problem [in my eyes], indeed).

    certain assumptions must be *explicit*
    or one gets a worse-than-useless “proof”
    (including, somewhere along the line,
    a “jump to the conclusion”).

    another, alas very common pathology:
    asserting the conclusion
    and then
    banging away on it
    with no reference to
    what-follows-from-what
    (or when or why)
    and then proudly ending at
    0=0
    and handing it in
    (perhaps with a “\checkmark” symbol
    as if to bypass my role altogether).

    they’ve been told over and over at least since
    their first class involving ‘trig identities” that this
    is *not* acceptable style: one must, for instance,
    explicitly claim that the strings of code displayed
    are equivalent (sometimes giving reasons)…
    or some other, and i’ve got to see it on the page,
    *explanation* of what the heck these
    symbol-strings are supposed to be telling us.

    i’ll go on considering this type of behavior by students
    to be pretty deeply wrong for as long as keep working
    at this thankless task i think. but of course, *i’m* not
    grading the exams.

    so the issue of *scoring* these darn things arises.
    i’ve complained quite a bit on some of these pages
    but propose to use a very light hand in actually
    taking off points. this time around.

    but think it might be best to do it as a “warning shot”.

    lots of the students “get it” and write as clearly as they
    know how. but lots of others will *deliberately* write
    in *as sloppy a manner as they feel they’ll be allowed*.
    the point here is that one is *hiding* one’s misapprehensions;
    the tragedy is of course that it very often works.

    but fudging the logic is the *opposite* of mathematics
    and i can’t read *any* of this stuff any way except carefully.
    so i’ll very likely want to penalize certain “stylistic” problems
    pretty hard (or admitting that i’m just “checking for completion”
    without actually trying to rate the work).

    just the worse-than-meaningless $\Rightarrow$s alone
    can get me right out of the grading frame-of-mind, real quick
    (but that’s a losing battle for sure; a lot of *faculty*
    are addicted to these… in handwritten work, anyhow…).
    sometimes one actually means \Leftarrow;
    very often one means “then”
    (and there’s an otherwise-inexplicable “if”
    hanging around somewhere nearby).
    sometimes “so”…. and, oh yes,
    don’t forget about “is equal to”…

    and if these distinctions don’t matter, than i don’t know what *does*…

    anyhow.

    VARIOUS BOOKKEEPING STUFF CUT HERE.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: