Dear Habermas Logo and Surprise Link A Jeanne Site

Those Infamous Grades and
Letters of Recommendation

Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Copyright July 1999.

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: September 3, 1999
E-mailFaculty on the Site.


I. A Little Authentication Theory:
Understanding the Ideas Behind "Grades" and Evaluation Reports

The Measurement of Competence and Learning
Authentication as an Interactive Project
The Gifts of Hierarchy and Our Comfort with Labelling
Sample "Dog" Letter: "That Could Be My Dog!"
"Dog" Letters Mean No Specifics Are Known
Forms to Guide Us Through Interactive Measures

II. A Little Authentication Policy:
Socially Constructing the Reality of "Competence"

Asking the DOG LETTER Questions
Asking the Skills Questions
Asking the Character Questions Not up yet. July 6

III. A Little Authentication Praxis:

A. Creating through Inclusion and Sharing

Interactive Sharing of Measures that Work for Student and Teacher

THE Form
Sample Letters
Authentication of Knowledge as a Necessarily Shared Project

Anticipating THE Form Not up yet. July 6
Doing Your Homework Not up yet. July 6
Following Through Not up yet. July 6

These are bits and pieces from Susan and Jeanne's Career Book

New Edition, Copyright, May 1999, Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata.
Permission to reproduce and use under "fair use" for your students.
Not to be used for publication or any "for profit" venture.
This is a partial posting to be completed in Summer 1999.

We approached this file from the perspective of letters of recommendation, for at each end of semester students suddenly realize they need letters for applications for jobs, for internships, for professional programs, whatever. But most of us need them, and most of us are generally unprepared to seek them and to assure that those we get represent good measures of our actual competence and value.

Many of you, already on the second day of class, asked for such letters, for you are preparing for graduation and new pursuits. The policy of Dear Habermas is to prepare you to work interactively with the teacher to guarantee that your learning and your skills are fairly and well represented. We incorporate such learning into everything we teach. And at the end of the course we write a recommendation for each of you on what we perceive as your learning in the course.

It is your responsibility to read and discuss our theoretical perspective so that you have an opportunity to contribute to that theory, and to the policy which results from it. The final recommendation must be developed over the semester interactively so that it truly represents you.


The Mearurement of Competence and Learning
The GRADES we really ought to give.

This amounts essentially to our theory on how to measure what our students have learned, and how to allow them inclusion in that measurement. This brief paper offers you our theoretical perspective, how we translate that into policy, and some hypotheses we have about what will work in practice. Consider adding to this text as you actually experience learning as we are describing it. That allows your validity claims to be heard in good faith, and it provides for interdependence in the social construction of the relationship which binds student and teacher.

There are many problems of measurement in interactively preparing with students effective competency statements for both academic and career purposes. In some ways the claim to competence is the most important validity claim any of us will ever make. We need to find a community of others that will hear that claim in good faith, and accept us, for that claim shapes the roles and activities to which we will have access in the normal transactions of everyday life.

Specific problems:

There are many contexts I have experienced that do not fit the normative narrative of learning in the traditional academy. These are some of the concerns I see in those contexts, and issues for which I want measures:

The problem of accuracy in assessment. No fudging. It is too easy to say "I know." For if you are not scrupulously honest, you will claim to know more than you can demonstrate, and then all will be ignored as untruth. Remember that all these measures need to be operationalized into some verifiable form. It may be as simple as telling us that you have mastered the use of the taskbar. That is verifiable; for as you work with us in the lab, your skill in use of the taskbar is evident. Not all will be so easy. But we need to think on ways to operationalize our proffered measures in verifiable form. When we do not, standard and largely inadequate measures are forced upon us.

Want some assurances that will be reflected in class, but I want the e-mail on them: