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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: October 3, 1999; July 22, 2003
Latest Update: August 26, 2005
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Site Teaching Modules Maintatining Consistency in Academic Accountability

One of the important competencies we hope to strengthen in the liberal arts tradition is the ability to undertake and carry through complex tasks that require consistency in performance over time. It's called discipline. We hope our grade books will reflect that consistency.

Few of us have much more discretionary time than we have discretionary income. (Discretionary refers to time and money left over after the essential things we have to pay for and get done are taken care of.) We are at relatively small commuter colleges, which suggests that we experience multiple conflicts for both time and money. That means that sometimes you will want to get as much done as possible, so that you can take some time off when you have to study desperately for some exam, or write a term paper. In our grade books that could show clumps of activity followed by weeks? of inactivity. We would like to introduce a technique that might reflect actual time management of conflict, and would give a better picture of the consistency of your participation.

In law school, we had a tradition of using the "pass." If the law professor called on you at an inopportune moment in class, you were entitled to say simply "pass." I doubt that anyone was keeping score, but we were technically allowed three passes a semester. We didn't need to give an explanation. We could have had a headache, not read the case, or had a family crisis the night before. The "pass" was simply accepted, giving some degree of control over managing time for study in that class.

I would like to suggest a variation on the "pass" to you. The clumps of activity will show up easily on the records. For some of you there will then be gaps with no evidence of activity. Send us a very brief e-mail during these gaps. An example might be : "pass: exam study" or "pass: flu" or "pass: term paper". No excuse is mandatory. You could just send "pass." But sometimes, particularly when you do have a respectable excuse, you'd like to give it.

We'll record the "pass"s, and your records will display a more consistent pattern: a good thing if we're looking for a way to measure your consistency in dealing with complex problems and issues. We hope that this will also help you develop some awareness of the importance of communicating consistency, either by the presence of your face in meetings and/or classes, or by connectedness through e-mail communication. This will also save our having to go hunt for the "lost" students jeanne has always called "field mice," the ones that come late, slip out early, and you have to work at catching them.

This is also a skill you need to learn for work. It's a good idea to see that your supervisor and co-workers catch a glimpse of you now and then, even when you need some time to yourself. Otherwise no one may think of you when things you'd like to be remembered for show up on the work scene. In sociology, we call it "presentation of self." Maybe we should rename it "disciplined presentation of self," just to remind you.

Maintatining Consistency in Academic Accountability

by Jeanne Curran and Susan Takata
Part of the Narrative of Learning Identity Series
Copyright October 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.