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posted by janrinok on Wednesday March 12 2014, @08:35PM   Printer-friendly
from the this-will-not-be-controversial-oh-no-sir dept.

GungnirSniper writes:

"Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post has 'A message to the nation's women: Stop trying to be straight-A students.'

In her analysis of others' findings, she writes of a discouragement gradient that pushes women out of harder college degrees, including economics and other STEM degrees. Men do not seem to have a similar discouragement gradient, so they stay in harder degree programs and ultimately earn more. Data suggests that women might also value high grades more than men do and sort themselves into fields where grading curves are more lenient.

'Maybe women just don't want to get things wrong,' Goldin hypothesized. 'They don't want to walk around being a B-minus student in something. They want to find something they can be an A student in. They want something where the professor will pat them on the back and say "You're doing so well!"'

'Guys,' she added, 'don't seem to give two damns.'

Why are women in college moving away from harder degrees?"

 
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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Daniel Dvorkin on Wednesday March 12 2014, @10:33PM

    by Daniel Dvorkin (1099) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @10:33PM (#15583) Journal

    I think grading on a curve is inherently wrong. If you design a bridge which collapses and kills people, is it made better by someone else designing an even worse bridge?

    You're assuming taking a test is the same as designing a bridge. They're not really comparable tasks. Unfortunately, when moving a hundred or more students through a "___ 101" class, it's really hard to come up with ways to assess how well the students are learning that bear much resemblance to the tasks they'll be doing with their knowledge once they complete their degrees.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by etherscythe on Thursday March 13 2014, @12:06AM

    by etherscythe (937) on Thursday March 13 2014, @12:06AM (#15622) Journal

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but a test that does not determine skills and knowledge of procedure which go into the practical application of the degree field is simply a failure of the test. Seriously, if the test does not reflect what the graduate is expected to be able to do, what are we testing for? And if the people building our bridges haven't shown they are qualified to do so, what the hell good was the degree to begin with?

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    • (Score: 1) by tibman on Thursday March 13 2014, @01:56AM

      by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 13 2014, @01:56AM (#15652)

      You are assuming that college is for producing educated people and not just collecting money. There is a lot of business pressure to get people through and not see them fail mid-way (and stop paying).

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      • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Thursday March 13 2014, @01:32PM

        by nitehawk214 (1304) on Thursday March 13 2014, @01:32PM (#15845)

        College is for educating people. The fact that most colleges simply do not care about providing education is a problem with colleges, not with everyone else.

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    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Daniel Dvorkin on Thursday March 13 2014, @04:07AM

      by Daniel Dvorkin (1099) on Thursday March 13 2014, @04:07AM (#15680) Journal

      The pessimistic answer is that yes, the tests themselves are failures ... and that's why bridges fall down.

      The somewhat more optimistic answer is that you can't practically test for the ability to carry out complex, long-term projects in a classroom setting, but you can test the basic skills that are prerequisites for those projects--and that grading on a curve is just an acknowledgement that those skills are a lot harder to demonstrate in an hour-long closed-book exam than they are on the job, when you (hopefully) have reference materials available and the time to use them. Which is somewhat supported by the fact that most bridges don't fall down, I suppose.

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    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Kell on Thursday March 13 2014, @07:44AM

      by Kell (292) on Thursday March 13 2014, @07:44AM (#15755)

      Hi - tertiary engineering educator here. Hoo boy, believe me it is very hard to build assessment that is fair, balanced, and well-targeted for difficulty. When it comes to teaching the questions that keeps me up at night are "Have I made the project too hard?" and "Have I made the project too easy?" Either scenario is a disaster for the course.
       
      On the topic of bell-curves: they are a way of doing "automatic gain adjustment" on your marking scheme, and is usually a fairly robust technique given large, and fairly homogenous classes. Oddly, the major complaints about bell curves come from the good students who actually benefit from such a scheme - they know it's unfair, but generally if you're smart enough to recognise the issue, you're not the one on the bottom of the heap.
       
      That said, I don't use them either - I use competency-based assessment, which I feel is fairer to everybody, but it always difficult to design good assessment that doesn't break too many eggs (or not enough).

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