I am a teaching assistant in an undergraduate bioinformatics course. A few weeks ago the students in the course handed in the final assignment (which is worth 80% of the final grade), which we (me and the other members of the course staff) are currently in the process of grading.
The lecturer in charge of the course wants to give the students only their final grades for this assignment without any feedback on why points were taken off. Her justification for this is that she do not want students to pass the feedback to the next class that will take this course and thus avoid copying of answers. While she did not say so explicitly, my impression from some things she did say is that by avoiding a more detailed feedback she hopes to discourage student from appealing their grades. My university's regulations state that a student can appeal any grade, but in the appeal form the student must specify exactly which question/part of the assignment they appeal and why do they think that points were taken off unfairly, so no feedback - no appeal and thus no extra work for the course staff.
I am rather uncomfortable with this attitude for several reasons:
From a didactic point of view I think that merely giving a student their final grade without any indication what was his/her errors is wrong is it does not allow them to improve.
Not giving feedback will not prevent students from passing their work to the next class. It will just mean that the errors of student from this class will propagate to the next class.
On the other hand, I am uncomfortable from insisting on this issue from several reasons:
This is my first year as a TA, whereas the lecturer has been giving this course for many years, so it is possible that her judgement is better then mine, even though it seems wrong to me.
It is unlikely that I will teach this course again (I intend to graduate and move to another university later this year). Thus, even if I do manage to persuade the lecturer to give a more detailed feedback, I will not be around to face the consequences she is afraid of whereas she will, so insisting on this may be a bit unfair to her.
The other TAs in the course do not seem to share my opinion (they did not voice any strong opinion of this matter).
I do not want to start a confrontation with the lecturer, as I might need a reference from her in the future.
There is still a window of a few weeks until we are supposed to give the grades, so theoretically I can reopen this discussion.
Basically, I have two questions:
- Given all of the above, should I attempt to persuade the lecturer to allow more detailed feedback?
- If I should, how can I persuade her?
Some additional information that seem relevant is light of the comments and answers:
As per the lecturer's instruction we keep a detailed record of the grading of the assignment (this also includes that lecturer, with respect to the parts of the assignment that she grades herself). So detailed feedback is available. Thus we can rule out the possibility of laziness or unwillingness to waste time on detailed grading.
Assessment and feedback during the course Many of the classes in the course included practice sessions during which the students were supposed to complete on assignment. These assignment were not handed in or graded, but were meant solely for the students' learning. During these sessions the students were able to consult the course staff if they did not understand or were unsure about a certain question. In addition there were two midterm assignments, each worth 10% percent of the final grade (I would mention that at my institution it is quite normal that the final exam/assignment makes 80% or even more of the final grade, but is not normal not to give feedback on it).
For the first of these midterms we did not give students individual feedback, only the final grade. We did mention in class some frequent errors and issues in the assignments. Formally students were allowed to approach us for more detailed feedback but as far as I know few if any did that. For the second midterm assignment we give detailed feedback.
The in the grading policy between difference between the two midterm assignments is that the first assignment was submitted only electronically via the course website and in the second assignment the student were also required to hand in a hard copy of the assignment. The lecturer refused to allow feedback on the electronic submission because this would be easier to pass to the next class. Initially she wanted to require hard copy submission of the first assignment too (presumably to allow detailed feedback). When I asked prior to the issuing of the assignment to the students why an electronic submission is not enough she changes it an electronic submission only. I did not realise at the time that this would deprive students from feedback. She only informed us about that after the assignments were handed in and we were about to start grading.