A(nother?) Rumination on Teaching

With another session of teaching looking at me, it occurred to me that I might take stock of the teaching career I have had–as opposed to the ones I had wanted to have and clearly now do not. After all, I’ve been at the work of teaching college classes since 2006, and I’ve been working on being an educator since 2000, at least; I’ve got a bit to look back over, and I’ve kept records of most of it. Maybe I can even get something good out of the data.

I do have to admit that my records are incomplete; there are some teaching sessions for which I no longer have my gradebooks. I am not sure why. Too, there are other gaps in my records because there are gaps in my teaching; while I was in constant rotation through Spring 2012, after that, my teaching grew more…intermittent. And, owing to different grading practices at different institutions, I have had to normalize grades reported, making them all conform to a single, simple standard (percentile grading to three decimal places, reported on an uninflected A/B/C/D/F scale, with some scores rendered negative by departmental policies rendered as zero). So there is that to consider, as well.

Even so, I can provide a fair bit of information. I have records of 1,547 students completing the college classes I have taught since the Summer 2006 term (again, noting that there are several terms I taught from which I no longer have student records). Those records cover 34 terms of teaching (with concurrent terms at different institutions considered different terms), for an average of 45.5 students taught in each term. Their average grade was 66.139/100 (D), with a standard deviation of 22.595. Some 104 of those students (approx. 7%) earned an A or the equivalent, 418 B (27%), 375 C (approx. 24%), 220 D (approx. 14%), and 429 F (approx. 28%). Percentages are approximate due to rounding.

Student Grades to 20 October 2019
Student Grades to 20 October 2019
Number of Students by Term to 20 October 2019
Number of Students Taught by Term to 20 October 2019
Average Scores by Term to 20 October 2019
Average Score (out of 100) by Term to 20 October 2019

Breaking grades out by term taught yields some interesting information, some of which has been reported in this webspace previously. (I have offered grade reports for many teaching sessions I have completed, although not all. I did not anticipate I would be offering a report on myself in such a way as to need a comprehensive record. I probably should have, though.) In reporting the distribution of letter grades across time, I have worked in percentages, since a teaching term with 99 students will necessarily report higher direct numbers than will a teaching term with 45.

Percentage of Students Earning As by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning As by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Bs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Bs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Cs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Cs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Ds by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Ds by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Fs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Fs by Term to 20 October 2019

Notably, the proportion of As has risen, as have those of Cs and Ds, while the proportions of Bs and Fs have fallen (overall; I am looking at trendlines). Even so, there are some definite troughs in students earning As, and there are some tall, tall peaks in students earning Fs. While some of that is on the students (I can only award one score to work not submitted, and a lot of students have left a lot of work not turned in), there are some I would adjust at this point if it were available to me to do. There have been times I have been overly harsh in assessing my students’ performance (not as many as the students think, however), and I realize it now, with the benefit of a perspective I could not summon while I was doing more teaching–much more–than I am now.

In truth, I am not sure what the data show. That is, I know what the numbers are, but I am not sure how to parse those numbers to extract any meaning from them. I am sure some will say that the facts speak for themselves, and perhaps they do, but if they do, they do not do so in a language I can understand or at a volume I can hear.

Teaching still doesn’t pay much here. Care to help?

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