In the thick of grading papers here and I’m busy. Treading water busy and not drowning busy, still there’s a lot to do. My Intro students have just turned in their last short essay so I’ve got about 90 of those. Then there’s quizzes to grade and a final exam to write – followed by more grading – but it will be a relief to get this essay off my plate so I can be done with taking assume for conclude.
This is one of my pet peeves and it drives me batty. Another one is when students (let’s face it, it’s always young women) turn in long-hand exercises written in color ink other than black or blue. Red, pink, gold, silver, purple, glitter and don’t get me started on the one’s that dot their I’s with hearts.
I’ve spent my young career as an adjunct bouncing between a small liberal arts college and a large urban university. While my liberal arts students are uniformly stronger writers than my urban university students (who show a greater range of ability from quite talented to less than competent) both groups do this. Maybe its generational?
In the assignment students record their garbage for five days. I shuffle the lists, which are kept anonymous, and return them. Then they must write an essay in which they interpret their classmates’ garbage as if they were archaeologists.
If the trash data turns up tampons and make-up they will invariably write, “I assume this person is female.” Or if there are beer cans and liquor bottles, “I assume this person is 21.”
No, no, no! You assume that the person is not lying about their trash. You assume that those objects are present because the list-maker, through their own willful actions, put it in the rubbish bin and it didn’t just accidentally fall in. Or someone broke into their place and threw things in the trash. You are actually concluding based on your knowledge and experience that the presence of tampons and make-up indicate that this is a woman’s trash. You are concluding something about this person’s leisure time based on the presence of rolling papers and cigars.
I’ve noticed similar patterns with infer and deduce, which are often taken to be synonymous, and I have had some success in teaching students to tell the difference. Next semester I’ll include some notes on the difference between assume and conclude too.
What are your grading pet peeves?