English Adjunct Experiments with New Evaluation Methods

DYSTOPIA–Dystopia College adjunct English instruction Will Bardly, who teaches “a buttload of comp courses,” has adopted a new evaluation method to bring his grading practices “more in line with the required courses outcomes.”

Bardly, who is also a graduate student in dramatic poetry and composition pedagogy at Evanwurst University, said he began thinking about alternative grading methods after his Dystopia faculty mentor, Asst. Prof. Owen Hornblower, explained to him that, because of the guidelines established by the college’s accreditors, “it doesn’t matter what you have your students do, as long as you take a ‘student-center’ approach and you can measure the results.”

“Anyway, as long as students graduate in hurry, the Dystopian administration and the state politicians will be happy,” Bardly said Hornblower told him, “so concentrate your efforts on getting them through your classes as fast as you can with as little effort as possible.”

The idea of easy measurement appealed immediately to Bardly. Interviewed over a glass of Kool-Aid at in the college’s Sik-Li/Grubb Dining Hall, he says that more traditional methods of teaching composition often involved tedious, time-consuming activities such as reading students’ essays and making constructive comments on them. Although Bardly conceded that such antiquated methods might have had some merits, they are not justified by his twenty-five-dollar-course compensation for teaching at Dystopia.

With the new emphasis on “measurable outcomes,” though, he says there’s  not need to worry about anything other than the most superficial elements of education.

That realization led him to develop the new evaluation system, which he will pilot during the fall semester.  In Bardly’s system, students’ essays will be evaluated on length rather than content, “which would probably be crap anyway,” and their participation in the class will be graded on their duration of their comments.

In the past, Bardly said, he was reluctant to assign long papers because he was expected to actually read them all, more or less. With reading no longer necessary, he feels more comfortable encouraging students to write as much as possible. That approach will also be consistent with the “process rather than product” approach long favored by theorists in composition and rhetoric.

Although Bardly has always given students credit–“probably too much of”–for class participation, evaluating the quality of students’ contribution to class is difficult and necessarily “pretty subjective.”  With the new system, he will be able to simply use a stopwatch to determine the number of seconds that each student appears to be speaking.  The technique will require “some tiresome record-keeping,” he acknowledged, “but no actual thought.”

As for whether the content of their comments is on-target or just irrelevant nonsense, that “doesn’t really matter” because he and the other students “have our earbuds in” during class anyway and aren’t really listening.

“Sometimes we don’t even notice that there are other people in the room with us,” he’d added.

Copyright 2016

T. Allen Culpepper



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