Friday, November 11, 2005

GND = Gracias, Non-Disclosure ?

Question Everything.

That's supposed to be the mantra here at the GSB. It definitely was the one espoused by my mascot for the building when I wrote my essays. And, amidst the craziness of trying just to stay on top of things, I do try to stop and ask a question or two here and there.

Like last week. I was at lunch with a professor of marketing with a few other students. Having finished working on my sandwich and emptied the bag of chips, I had to find something else to keep my attention. I decided to resort to a question - professor, what are your thoughts on grade non-disclosure?

It was almost like a schmoozing-standard-issue question that wannabe bankers or consultants employ where you already know the answer that is to come. There were no surprises here. He didn't like it one bit. From his perspective, it makes us uncompetitive and that ultimately impacts the quality of the education we receive. What was ever more profound was his unqualified assertion that GND has made us students more uninterested. He has noticed this very clearly in the classes he teaches. Students come unprepared to class and there's no stick of grades to force them to study. Now, this guy is distilled-pure brilliant, and it was on ample display. When countered with our viewpoint that GND gives us the freedom to take the classes we *really* want to take, as opposed to easy classes where we can get A's, he counter-countered by asking of us why it was that in an advanced marketing elective, which ostensibly everyone is taking only because they are interested in the subject, there was such limited class participation. He says that it is extremely frustrating to have some people in class not participate at all.

Fair point. Really. But, in our fabled (it might be of interest that one of the dictionary definitions of the term is 'to recount as if true') tradition of inquiry, i must ask: Is it just about the students? (I am not confident that it is even OK to mention that as a possibility to any professors here)

Question Everything.

Classroom participation is a two-way street. At least to the extent that one of the judges of its effectiveness, or lack thereof, is the one doing the teaching. I sense, from the professor's attitude towards GND in one of my classes and articles written to the ChiBus, that they are willing to blame this policy for all that's wrong with the attitudes of students in class. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a very valid point. However, and my microecon professor is to blame for this new-found line of analysis :-), let us assume that the students come into day 1 of any class curious to learn about the subject. And let's also assume that there was no GND. And to make it interesting, let us - for a brief monet

Ok, that was me falling asleep in the middle of typing that sentence last night :-) it's a brand new fall day. and we continue.

Hmm, I forgot where I was going with that last one. However, the point I was trying to make is that, what are the factors that go into determining student participation as the quarter progresses? I would reckon interest in the subject matter is right up there. And maybe the desire to get a good grade.

As I look back at my quarter so far, I have to say I am extremely disappointed with one class, and thoroughly enjoy two others. The interesting thing is, the class I'm currently not liking is the one that the professor tries to get the most class participation. The second class is lecture based, and the third is a mix of case and lectures. I am really kicked by the second class. It's one of those where I walk out every class knowing more than when I walked in. It is lecture based, but a few students ask questions - and they are very thoughtful questions on the concepts he is talking about. The word I'm looking for is invigorating. And, I'm going to be a participant in a class like that - how can i not be? The third class is awesome because we do a lot of work before each class on the case and I go into class with an opinion and understanding that I can debate. I do sense that I get show down by the professor a few times, but it's awesome.

The first class, I don't know. The basic structure is that we read about all the concepts and do a bunch of homeworks before we get to class, and the professor picks a couple of problems and we work through them. As we do it, he introduces some of the concepts that chapter covers. It started out very interesting, I have to say, but then I find myself not learning much in class. I mean, if we are to read everything from the text book ourselves and do all the problems, then why are we in class? To do one more problem? It is, well, uninteresting.

Grades, or no grades, have nothing to do with it. The class isn't interesting enough for me. And it's part of a vicious circle - where I'm falling behind because I don't have the motivation to do the homeworks before class. Here, I have to admit that if they were graded (they're not) I might be more inclined to do them regularly. I might actually do them religiously if grades mattered. But, would that affect my 'class participation'? A bit (owing to my being better prepared), but not by much, I suspect.

I am not saying though, that GND is a total positive. I will readily admit that GND is one of the reasons why I'm slacking in said class. The professor hates it, I think he probably hates me too, but as far as i am concerned, my interest level in the class has been reduced by the structure of the class. I would much rather study enough to be confident that I understand the material, rather than push myself to get an A. In my other classes, I am at the top of my game in terms of how much I can do and learn. A grade doesn't even come into the equation.

That said, I have observed that, with recruiting taking top priority, a lot of people are using the 'thank god for GND' line. I suspect it's in jest, but I do think it has contributed to a certain lessening of interest in the classroom experience. It has led to a more than a few people wanting to work towards a 'Gentleman's B'.

Gentleman's B?

Yeah, it was new to me too. First, 'gentleman' because the women in b-school are, on average, more competitive and driven than the men, so they aren't anywhere close to this special group of people :) A Gentleman's B is that nether zone between a B and C where the professor decides to take pity on your plight and do the honorable thing and give you a B :-) Fun part is, a B's a B's a B. No different from the library-dweller's who missed an A by a whisker.

So, what's the verdict? I don't think there's one. I don't think there ever will be one. Because the opposing parties in this debate are evaluating this policy on completely different parameters. Professors care most about the academics and that's what they believe we should be here for primarily. We, on the other hand, are interested in learning, but also in building the foundation for a career, partaking in the activities of the community, networking, socializing ... never the twain shall meet?


Blogger PowerYogi said...

As I told you today, Jonathan G. and I have come to the conclusion that this blog thing is your true calling. Even your business cards seem to point to this conclusion
byron | Homepage | 11.11.05 - 8:49 pm | #


I think you gave an excelent insight on the different points of view concerning GND. Excelent post, and thanks for sharing.
Ricardo | 11.14.05 - 4:58 am | #

19 November, 2005 02:56  

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