Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Challenge of Teaching Common Sense

Having, way back when, done a stint requiring a security clearance, I am a bit more security-conscious about my students' exams and papers than are many of my colleagues with their students' papers, exams, et cetera. Specifically, the exams are kept in a locked filing cabinet for 2 years (the effective time limit on my campus for appealing a grade) and then they go through the shredder. And I never discuss any particular student's performances or grades with another student (and only discuss particular students with other faculty on a need to know basis).

As a faculty member, I am privy to the last 4 digits of my student's SSN. But I never use this chain of digits to identify my students; I just use their names.

Yesterday I finished grading the exams administered the day before to my students. This particular examination is all multiple choice, and answers are encoded by the students onto the Scantron form to be graded by an optical reader machine.

My verbal instructions to the students included a statement that while they needed to put their names on the answer sheets, it was completely unnecessary for them to enter their Social Security Numbers on the answer sheets. In fact, I mentioned that, generally speaking, it is NOT a good idea to use or divulge your Social Security Number unless absolutely necessary.

Notwithstanding this, out of the 41 students in the class, 2 put their SSNs on their answer sheets!

I didn’t ping the 2 students for failing to follow directions. But perhaps I should have. I cannot help but question their good sense and judgment. And I cannot help but wonder whether they will go onward in future years to exercise their wonderful judgmental skills while in the employ of the Coast Guard or the EPA.

The two students were not the highest scorers on the exam, to say the least.

I long ago realized that I cannot teach common sense in a classroom setting. Sometimes common sense can be learned through experience. And, in the long run, the principles enunciated by Charles Darwin do eventually kick in.

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