Monthly Archives: October 2009

Guest Post: To Teach Or To Grade That Is The Question

The following is a guest post from Arthur Lewin, Associate Professor, Department of Black and Hispanic Studies at Baruch College. He can be reached at

What does pedagogy and mathematical physics have in common? The Uncertainty Principle. Physics informs us it is impossible to accurately determine both the position and the momentum of a subatomic particle. One can know its position, or its momentum, but never both.

Similarly, to the extent that we try to precisely measure “where each student stands” vis-à-vis the others in the class, we inhibit and retard the overall learning process. But to the extent that we focus on the overall learning of the group, the precise measurement of grades is neglected. A Hobbesian choice. But choose we must.

The American educational system, overall, seems to have chosen measurement over education of the group. For example, years ago prep courses for the SAT and grad school admission tests were optional, now they are almost mandatory. Since almost everyone is taking them, those who do not are at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, companies that make the tests, aware that virtually every one has been coached, make the tests ever more convoluted and abstruse, which only spurs students to spend more and more time in test preparation.

So, to teach or to grade, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to err on the side of individual measurement or overall education of the group, for we simply cannot do both equally well, no matter how hard we try to.

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Guest Post: Why Not Tell Them about Grad School?

The following is a guest post from Arthur Lewin, Associate Professor, Department of Black and Hispanic Studies at Baruch College. He can be reached at

We all have been there, and we would all like our students to go. Most, however, know next to nothing about graduate school since they are quite often the first in their families to go to college.

Why not set up a panel discussion in which five or six students each research, and make 5 to 7 minute presentations, in a “How 2 Go 2 Grad School” session on such topics as: the application process, cost and financing, entrance exams, and the years of school and average income for a variety of professions. Alternately, you could have each student on the panel present the application process, cost and financing, and the entrance exam, for say the MBA, JD, PhD and Masters degree. Or you might invite a Baruch alum, who is a professional, come and address your students about their particular profession and how to follow in their footsteps.

In all cases, however, after the panel presents or the visitor speaks, they would then field questions from the class. And the professional visitor might come to the class and witness the panel presentation and discussion and then chime in with their own insights.

Which students would you select? Ask for volunteers. Students deeply interested in grad school, especially those already researching the application process, will likely come forward. In fact, if your class requirements already include group projects, why not make this an option? You’ll be surprised at how little students know about graduate school or even choosing a profession. And you’ll be gratified at how much they learn about both.

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