Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What I forgot to mention in class today

Multiple choice exams where individual questions have one right answer are often called "objective" tests.  The score you get on such an exam can be readily determined.  There are ways where use of the word objective may be a bit of a misnomer.  For example, since we already talked about exam difficulty, you can envision individual question difficulty.  An exam might have many easy questions and a few hard ones.  One student might get all the easy questions right but not get any of the hard ones right.  Another student might have gotten some of the hard questions right but missed several of the easy ones.  Which student did better on the test?  The typical way this is considered is by having points per question and by adding up the points for right answers.  But a different point scheme can change who is the better performer and there is nothing which tells you what point scheme to use.

This is the introduction to a topic we won't really discuss, but I should have mentioned, called performance review.  Often that is done via subjective impression of the work of the employee done in the period under review and it is much about simply reviewing whether goals were met and setting new goals as it is about measuring performance for promotion.   The U of I instituted a formal requirement for performance review around 15 years ago.  It is done separately from decisions about salary increases and decisions about promotion.  But obviously the two are related.

The last wrinkle to consider here is to combine the performance review notion with Argyris and Schon models I and II.  In particular a Model I manager probably will not value an employee who shows the manager up.  So if it is evident that the manager is Model I, there is some incentive to "suck up" to the manager as a way to advance.  Sometimes you hear expressions like "not a team player" for someone who performs well but doesn't behave this way.  (Of course, it can also apply to a truly selfish person.)  The point here is that to implement well a system of promotion based on performance where there is some subjective measurement of performance, it would be preferred to have Model II managers.

1 comment:

  1. I should also add here on the part where I said I taught a tough course, the academic word for that is "rigorous" and it is an object of pride. Everything I did as an academic back then I did with the aim for rigor.

    More recently, though I can't remember exactly when, I got a course evaluation which said (though I am doing this from memory so am paraphrasing):

    Professor Arvan taught us to swim. Unfortunately, too many of us drowned.

    If some students swim and others drown that may be an acceptable outcome. It is the approach that the College of Engineering takes. If everyone drowns, what is the point? It only took me about 20 years of teaching to know to ask that question. But I know to do it now.