Tuesday, October 06, 2009

At peace with a 'B+'?

That's the grade I get for my essay on interpreting Genesis 1-2 in light of contemporary sciences. The lecturer said that I didn't give her what she requires and hence the grade is being pulled down.

Let me explain. In this assignment each of us in the group need to complete 2 tasks: (1) Submit an individually-researched paper; (2) Participate in a mock-debate among the different individuals in the group.

The instruction on the Course Requirement for task (1) is this:

Six Days of Creation: Literal or Figurative?

a. Read at least the following:
  • David Wilkinson, The Message of Creation, p.271-279.

  • G. L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction, rev. ed., p.156-160.

  • Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings, p.53-57.

  • Henri Blocher, In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis, p.39-59.

b. Summarize the four different views of creation, and state which view the above authors hold. (30%)

c. Critique each of the four views, i.e., what are their respective strengths and weaknesses? (30%)

d. Which view do you prefer and why? Here, you may need to do further research by providing new data/arguments to support your view and/or to evaluate the underlying assumptions/criteria of the different arguments. (30%)

e. Reflect on one practical application of this issue, whether pastoral, theological, ecumenical, or with respect to apologetics. (10%)

I have carefully read the instruction and the 4 books in my research. I categorize each view in this way: (1) Literary genre, in relation to (2) scientific relevance. So,

David Wilkinson: Literal-Non-Scientific.

G. L. Archer, Jr.: Figurative-Scientific.

Henri M. Morris: Literal-Scientific.

Henri Blocher: Figurative-Non-Scientific.

I have summarized and stated in the essay each view the authors hold.

However, during the presentation (task 2), the group did not discuss these 4 views held by the authors. Rather we discussed:

1) Literal Theory (=Henri M. Morris: Literal-Scientific)
2) Gap Theory
3) Day-Age Theory (=G. L. Archer, Jr.: Figurative-Scientific)
4) Framework Theory (=Henri Blocher: Figurative-Non-Scientific)

During the preparation of the mock-debate, I have told the group that the 'Gap Theory' is not hold by any of the authors. The group thought that it was alright, and I followed them. So in the presentation, we presented these 4 views. After that we submitted our individual essay.

This morning I was told that I didn't discuss the 'Gap Theory' in the essay and hence my grade is marked down. I told the lecturer that my essay is not related to the mock-debate, and I followed the instruction carefully to "summarize the four different views of creation, and state which view the above authors hold." Since none of the authors hold the 'Gap Theory' then I shouldn't discuss it. I have also told her that I have clarified to the group during our mock-debate preparation that the 'Gap Theory' is not hold by any of the authors, to made it clear to her that I know very clearly what I was writing about. The lecturer said something like we were supposed to discuss the views proposed in the books. But I don't see that I have not followed the instruction.

I think the instruction is clear that we discuss only the view the authors and not all the views discussed in their books (altogether there are about 6 views).

This means I was penalized for following the instruction, not for breaking them.

Now I'm thinking whether should I pursue this matter further?


Peter said...

Hi Joshua,

First time leaving something on your blog.

As much as I may feel the injustice in the marking. I do ask, what is the goal of pursuing for a mark that one thinks is justifiable? In short, why aim for a top mark? I have always doubted the pursuit of excellence. It is good to have some achievements (but not all people make it to the standard of this world). The world standard of judging people is flawed necessarily. I think that (achieving excellence) should not be the ultimate goal of the game. The research process is your reward in itself, no one can steal it from you. Whatever grades given are secondly, worldly matters.

I do understand perhaps your point was not even related to the pursuit of excellence. But everyone's standard is different, and there are biases in the marker, which is nothing new. So for me, I don't mind whether I am getting an A or a D. The most important thing is whether I have learnt something in the course of the studies.

Blessings for the rest of the day.

J Wong said...

Hey Joshua, I feel your pain...it's the feeling that you have been penalised for following the instructions...something that a very "by the book" like me would be upset about cuz even after you go by the book, you still kena marked down...sigh....
BUT, having said that, as Peter said, may you find comfort & peace knowing that you have gained much in your research & discussion, and also that in the final scheme of things, these grades don't really matter in the light of eternity, ya ? :-)
*HUGS* Keep blogging & FBing - I always look forward to hearing about your "escapades" & what you have learnt in school & life !

Fongster said...

Hi Joshua,

Same as Peter. It's the first time I'm leaving a comment on your blog.

I've enjoyed reading some of your posts, and I can see that you have a tremendous appetite for theology, perhaps even hope of pursuing further studies.

In the light of that, I can understand your disappointment with your grade. I guess you could either consider how much this essay contirubtes to your OT grade, and how much that in turn contributes to your 1st year grade and overall graduation grades. If you are able to let it go, then do so. But if not, then I'm quite sure there will be an internal system within the college to get another marker in on your essay.
Cheers and God bless.

Kar Yong said...

Hi Josh,

There is a saying in STM coined by some of my students: Lecturer is always right. Even when the lecturer is wrong, he/she is still right (well, depends on whether you think any punt is intended).

As a lecturer myself, I know grade can be a rather touchy issue. We have had cases where student were very unhappy with us for giving them grades that fell below their expectation. I even had a student who alleged that I practise unfair marking in failing him when it was clearly (and also proven to be) a plagiarism case.

I know we do feel some sense of injustice when we are not rewarded accordingly. But by knowing you, I know you would have put in lots of effort in your essay. I guess sometimes, we need to ask ourselves, is grade all that matter? My straight As seminary grades may have perhaps made it slightly easier for me to earn a scholarship for doctoral study, but it does not contribute very much in my teaching today.

Like what the rest have said, I think more importantly is that we have learned and gained much in our research journey that not even an A grade would have rewarded us.

All the best for your studies.

SHWong said...

I have little more of value to add. In the end it is how you grade yourself and not how you are graded officially.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi all, thank you for leaving your thoughtful and uplifting comments. I'll just reply to all in this one comment as this will not flood those who subscribed to the 'follow-up' emails.

It is always good to be reminded of the pursue of academic studies: The priority of the process of learning.

There are basically two reasons why I am taken a back a bit by this:
1) Pragmatic reason: I want to get good grades in order to obtain scholarship for further studies. So you can say that I'm taking the good grades as a stepping stone. I don't need emotional comfort through good grades, but i need it for pragmatic purposes.

2) I'm OK with a "C" or "D" grade. But you must give me a valid reason for that. If the essay is not up to the lecturer's standard, then I have no case to make. But in this case, I am being marked down not because I didn't follow the rules, but precisely because I did. And following instruction is what the 'preliminary "Theological Study Skills" classes taught: Follow the instructions. Hence I don't understand. I'm absolutely OK to be marked down if the lecturer told me that my essay is not following her instruction.

Really appreciate all of your words and care. Thank you again, friends! :)

reasonable said...

Hey Joshua,

Very very seriously, for the sake of justice (not for the sake of your personal benefit) you OUGHT TO pursue the matter.

Too often we let such so-called "minor matters" rest in the name of "bigger picture" etc. It is not a minor matter - it can be reflective of a major underlying problem.

Assuming what you have described in your blog is correct, then please pursue the matter even if it makes no difference to your grade in the end.

This will help the lecturer to be more aware of the importance of her future written instructions and thus may benefit future batches
of students, this may help the lecturer to be more conscious of her error (e.g. if her error involves personal biasness!!! and hopefully she will then improve herself whatever the error it was).

I dunno how to express it... basically such "small matters" really matters. If you motive is right, then you OUGHT TO take action to do what u can to give justice a CHANCE.

Pl, pursue it, and make sure the lecturer understand CLEARLY what your concerns are.

It is not for the sake of grades.

If the lecturer is unreasonable despite your clear communication of your concerns, then contact me. (then I will let you know a reasonable plan B for your consideration)

Justice first, then grace will make sense. If people are not even clear-minded to recognise and accept justice, they would not know how to really appreciate grace. So for the sake of people who intentionally or unintentionally caused injustice and also for others sake, pursue the issue gently, clearly and reasonably.

My prayer be with u. Not just prayer...I am prepared to even involve my time and effort where appropriate.

jedibaba said...

Hmm.. wonder if your lecturer knows about this blog posting and given the chance to respond? Otherwise we are hearing just one side of the issue. Just a thought.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi all, just to update, the lecturer agree to reconsider that I might have got the instruction right. Now I have to explain some part of my essay to her.

reasonable said...

u mean she is not even sure what the meaning of her written instruction were?

1. She had a set of intended meaning in her mind
2. She then attempted to express her intended meaning in the written instruction.

Perhaps her written expression failed to express correctly her intended meaning (say, she intended people to discuss Gap Hypothesis).

If it is true that the meaning of the written instruction differs from her intended meaning, then the correct academic response of students is to follow her written instruction and not her invisible intention.

So now she may have to do exegesis on her written instruction, and then compare that exegeted meaning with the meaning she originally intended.

If she finds that any reasonable person's interpretation of her written instruction is same as how u interpreted those instruction, then the next thing she OUGHT TO do is to upgrade your grades and downgrade the grades of other students who failed to comply with those written instruction even if they have complied with her invisible intended meaning that differs from the written meaning.

Lesson for biblical interpretation: the written words may have failed to express biblical author's intention.

Stanley Wong said...

Hi SZ,

I feel that this unfortunate "misunderstanding" highlights the importance of precision in communication.

I read the questions and I believe you have followed them very precisely. Perhaps your lecturer needs to humble herself and acknowledge that her instructions were not worded with enough precision to reflect what she truly had in mind.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Stanley Wong,

Thank you for the encouragement! Me and the lecturer need to communicate more :)