How to Reduce Racial Bias in Grading (Use Objective Rubrics)

To gauge the potential impact of a standardized rubric on grading bias, I conducted an experiment comparing how teachers graded two identical second-grade writing samples: one presented as the work of a Black student, and one as the work of a white student.

My experiment found that teachers gave the white student better marks across the board—with one exception. When teachers used a grading rubric with specific criteria, racial bias all but disappeared. When teachers evaluated student writing using a general grade-level scale, they were 4.7 percentage points more likely to consider the white child’s writing at or above grade level compared to the identical writing from a Black child. However, when teachers used a grading rubric with specific criteria, the grades were essentially the same.

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In March, 2001, I was blogging about “All Your Base…”, digital history, 3D printers, and missing class

In March 2001, I was blogging about All Your Base Are Belong To Us (early meme) “Remembrance of Things Past” (reflection on the digital legacy we are creating with our personal data) (Simson Garfinkel) A new generation of three-dimensional printers (“Fax It Up, Scotty” I Missed Class… Did Anything Important Happen? (From a FAQ page I totally forgot about) “Every Pixel Tells a Story” (transition from pen-and-ink animation to digital animation)

A computer scientist urges more support for the humanities (opinion)

“Lior Shamir, a computer scientist who’s actively participated in efforts to increase participation in STEM fields, now wonders if she’s been on the wrong side.” The theme of those academic meetings has been rather consistent: we must reach out to those lost souls who chose to study the humanities or social sciences and show them the light of STEM. But as time has passed, and the deeper and more sophisticated…

Gender and Language — Revisiting Advice I Posted in 1998

When I was in college and active in a Catholic student group, I remember noticing that a second edition of the hymnal Glory and Praise rewrote lyrics, replaced many generic references to “men” or “brothers” with synonyms like “all” or “fam’ly” (elided to two syllabus).  Sometimes this meant rewriting the rhymes, or occasionally leaving a line that referred to “brothers” and “sons” and adding a parallel verse that addressed “sisters”…

Most Americans have a high opinion of the humanities, and 81% use at least one humanities-related skill on the job

While some survey respondents were unfamiliar with the term “humanities” (apparently guessing that it had to do with the study of the human body), once they were given the definition “studying or participating in activities related to literature, languages, history, and philosophy,” most respondents had a high opinion of the subject. Predictably, people who were educated at liberal-arts colleges were the most favorable towards the humanities, but science and engineering…

Making Connections in Virtual One-Shots

I often invite my colleague Kelly Clever to give the “library session” to my freshman writing students. Of course there’s only so much anyone can accomplish in a single session, but my students often credit her for helping them make the leap from a general idea to a well-formed research question. Maybe they end up changing their topic a few weeks later, but the good experiences they have during the…

A Career-Aligned Major Isn’t Enough

I’ve taken over teaching the English department’s relatively new career focus sequence, so I’m more than usually invested in these ideas. It’s time for faculty and administrators to be blunt: postgraduation success, more than ever, requires a demanding curriculum that includes extensive writing, facility with data and statistics, and extensive opportunities for collaboration and critical thinking. What the pandemic should have taught us is that we need to double down…

Universities must stop presuming that all students are tech-savvy

Although considerable resources have been invested in helping teachers retool, not much has been done to assist their pupils. Instead, it has been taken for granted that 21st-century youth naturally become fluent in any technology, even without explicit directions. While supposedly clueless instructors are given a plethora of tips and tricks – like the OK, Zoomer workshop at my university – students are being overlooked. –Liz Losh, Times Higher Education

I just realized I’ve been misspelling and mispronouncing “detritus” all my life.

I’ve been a college English faculty member for over 20 years and I just realized I’ve been spelling and pronouncing “detritus” wrong all my life. A short while ago I realized I had typed “detrius” — and that’s how I heard the word in my head — “DEE tree us.” But the word has an extra T and it’s actually pronounced “duh TRY tus.” I don’t have much cause to…

Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers: Four Moves

The confirmation bias describes the very human tendency to reject evidence that challenges our worldview, and to seek out — and often cling to — evidence that supports it. If we believe black cats are bad luck, we remember every time a bad thing happened to us after we saw a black cat. If someone we love tells us we will catch a cold if we go outside with wet…

The belief that if people only were better educated, they’d engage

  A few hours after the horrifying attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol, I received a text from a friend noting, with distress, the picture of Republican senator Josh Hawley pumping his fist in support of the mob just a few hours before the attacks. “But Hawley went to Stanford,” they wrote. “He was a history major! Shouldn’t he know better than to encourage this?” That is a…

Thomas Jefferson on “newspapers without government” vs “government without newspapers”

Those darn founders with their darned respect for the free press. So biased! I am persuaded myself that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their…

My J-Term course on August Wilson doesn’t actually start until tomorrow, but the first assignments are already coming in. Sixteen weekdays to cover Wilson’s 10-play Century Cycle.

We’ll cover all 10 plays, but each student will only be responsible for reading an overlapping list of six plays. The movie adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom opens on Netflix this weekend, and we’ll be covering that play on Monday.

Responding to Literature at the College Level

A new handout, based on the opening lecture I give in every literature class. I’m trying to uncouple this chunk of content, which never changes, from the “intro to the course” lecture, which is topic-specific. Your high school teachers probably praised you for summarizing what you read and perhaps relating it to your own life in an engaging way. But your college professors will probably ask you to do a…

Motivation Amid Crisis (Autotrophic Bat)

As part of an independent study project, a graduating Seton Hill student wrote a blog about self-publishing her original collection of fairy-tale adaptations. She’s a double-major in creative writing and graphic design, and she freely adapted each story and illustrated each one in a different style. (She’ll be self-publishing her anthology soon, and I’ll certainly post about it.) Here is a reflection she wrote on staying motivated during the pandemic:…