Dear Students of NLM 160 Voluntary Action and Community Leadership:
FINALS ARE GRADED. I left comments about your individual exams in the Bb gradebook.
I'm very proud of this class. There were 13 perfect 100 point exams! If we were together, I'd make you give a standing ovation to these students.
The graph above shows the spread of your scores. Although there are a couple of very low scores, you will see that they are quite skewed toward the high end of the scale. Only seven of you earned less than a B.
Some might say, "Well duh, you gave us the exact selection of text where we could "look" for the answers." Well, yes I did list the readings I wanted you to refer to for each question. However, that's not really what we're seeing.
By asking you to find an organization online and apply the information in the readings to that organization's situation, you demonstrate that you can use the information in a real life situation. I want to know whether you can apply what you've learned, not whether you can memorize and spit information back to me.
If you can't take what you learned in class and apply it, then I've only done half my job.
The amount of work involved in reading 60 exams is well worth the trouble, because it gives me an opportunity to see exactly what you've learned this semester and what didn't work. Here are the two biggest mistakes, both of which I consider minor because they are definitional, not substantive:
(1) About two-thirds of you wrongly identified an organization as fitting the community building model. There were two common mistakes, (a) the organization fit the civic model but worked inside a geographically bound location, or (b) the organization were "support" organizations for community building organizations, but were not, themselves, community building organizations.
(3) About a third of you do not realize that "framing" means the way we craft language - rather than tactics - to create powerful messages that express an ideology (Lakoff).
NOW, HERE IS WHAT IS BRILLIANT ABOUT YOU
The beauty of this exam was that I got to see that you are capable of figuring out what these organizations were doing right, and what wasn't working for them. You were able to identify the assets they bring to their endeavors, and suggest other resources that might improve their work. You had thoughtful suggestions about better strategies to further their causes.
You noticed where their framing was successfully pulling others into their work, and where their framing was frightening potential allies away.
You were able to trouble-shoot, innovate, and suggest ways that very diverse organizations could work together. I marveled over and over again at your brilliant solutions for thinking about how diametrically opposed organizations could find a way to come together.
A couple of you rose to challenges like joining Westboro Baptist Church or Pro-Life organizations with LGBT groups, or "out there" protest groups like PETA or Rolling Thunder with quiet cultural centers or youth education organizations! Do you realize that if you employ these skills in real life, you will bridge gaps that have stymied older generations?
One of the most impressive things you showed me was that you know that if two groups are not ready to work together, there are still preliminary places they can meet and engage. They can pair off for conversation and get to know each other as individuals. They can convene to simply tell their stories, without any future obligation at all. There is always a starting point for trust-building.
I don't believe in grading on a curve. I believe in making sure you walk out of my class with solid knowledge. You guys did a marvelous job and should pat yourselves on the back.
Oh yeah, and my other favorite thing about this exam: Those who skated without reading the assignments during the semester have surely read them by now. No getting these excellent grades without reading the material!
You were a great class. I learned as much from you as you did from me!
Enjoy your holiday break, and when you do really amazing things in your future, which I know you all will, please let me know about it!