By Bill Korach www.thereportcard.org
The educational establishment seems to like the notion of lowering the bar if present standards become difficult or stressful. According to Anthony Gockowski writing in Campus Reform a University of Georgia professor has adopted a “stress reduction policy” that will allow students to select their own grades if they “feel unduly stressed” by the ones they earned.
According to online course syllabi for two of Dr. Richard Watson’s fall business courses, he has introduced the policy because “emotional reactions to stressful situations can have profound consequences for all involved.”
As such, if students feel “unduly stressed by a grade for any assessable material or the overall course,” they can “email the instructor indicating what grade [they] think is appropriate, and it will be so changed” with “no explanation” being required.
“If in a group meeting, you feel stressed by your group’s dynamics, you should leave the meeting immediately and need offer no explanation to the group members,” the policy adds, saying such students can “discontinue all further group work” with their remaining grade being “based totally on non-group work.”
Similarly, when it comes to “tests and exams” for Watson’s “Data Management” and “Energy Informatics” courses, all will be “open book and open notes” and “designed to assess low level mastery of the course material” (the “Stress Reduction” section has been removed from both syllabi, but an archived version of the “Data Management” syllabus has been provided here).
Finally, for in-class presentations, Watson will allow “only positive comments” to be made, while “comments designed to improve future presentations will be communicated by email.”
Watson, notably, does concede that “while this policy might hinder the development of group skills and mastery of the class material,” those outcomes are ultimately a student’s “responsibility,” though he promises to “provide every opportunity for [students] to gain high level mastery.”
Our guess is that Watson’s course will be very popular. We wonder how long it will take other schools to copy his example. We also wonder what potential employers will think of this approach to standards.