“Perceived Effort”

Campus Reform has a report on a paper by four professors from Otterbein University suggesting that women may be averse to STEM fields because they feel they work harder than male students without earning higher grades. In STEM grading is based on getting the right answer rather than how much effort was expended. The professors seem to think this is a bad thing.

[T]he professors discovered that while women felt they put more effort into their classes than men, they received approximately equivalent grades, which “indicates that women’s higher perceived effort levels are not rewarded.”

“This, in turn, returns us to questions of grading practices,” the professors write. “Does a course grade primarily reward conceptual understanding and problem-solving ability, or does it primarily reward hard work, reflected in course attendance, submission of assignments on time, etc., or some mixture of the two?”

Speaking as an engineer with almost fifty years’ working experience, contentiousness and effort do play key roles in professional success. However, contentiously getting the wrong result can be disastrous. As one of the commenters to the Campus Reform post put it, would you want to be sitting in an airplane designed by an engineer with a perfect attendance record in school or one who got As because he or she solved test problems correctly? If you’d prefer the former, I have a bridge for you—

UPDATE—Mrs. Hoge and I met at an engineering meeting. She was the founding co-chairman of the Nashville Section of the Audio Engineering Society.

8 thoughts on ““Perceived Effort”

  1. I’d say a better example is the FIU bridge failure. The installation design didn’t reflect access limits due to obvious things like curbing and medians in the road. Add in the arrogance of not having falsework up AND not closing the road when they started adjusting the tendons takes the failure in to criminal negligence to me.

    Something similar with the Kansas City Hyatt collapse. A shitty bridge design was changed in the field and approved without anyone doing the stress calculations. If they had hung the lower bridge from another set of rods straight to the roof truss everything would have been fine.

    Tacoma Narrows failed because no one expected the deck to flutter in the wind and resonate to the point of collapse. Reducing the weight of the trusswork under the deck allowed them to reduce the size of the cables.

  2. Of course they want it to be about effort instead of getting the right answers. That way, they can give everyone a “participation trophy” so-to-speak, and reward the real brown-nosers with higher grades. Those really smart kids that learned the subject easily? They probably exercised their white privilege or something…….

  3. Oh, and let’s not forget to emphasize the magic word in that quote:


    “[T]he professors discovered that while women felt they put more effort into their classes than men, they received approximately equivalent grades.”

    They “felt” they put more effort into their classes. Is there an objective metric by which the researchers can determine if this “feeling” is a “fact?” And if so, how much extra effort did the women put in to get approximately equivalent grades?

    sarc on

    Since The Science Is Settled™ on the notion that men and women are exactly the same, what other possible factors account for the required effort disparity?

    sarc off

  4. I don’t teach STEM students (although I do teach stats and budget, both of course very numbers-dependent and correct result oriented) and I’ve had the “effort” problem for a couple of decades. Now, in my syllabus and on the first day of class (and later, if necessary) students are told. “I don’t have an instrument that accurately measures effort. Therefore, none of your grade will be based on effort. I can measure the output of the product you deliver and whether or not you followed appropriate rules for the assignment. Therefore, your grade *will* be based on those items.”
    And among my rules is “One second late is the same as one day late and will result in a 1/3 or a letter (or 4 points) reduction in the grade received.”
    Over the years this has cut down on contentious grade-grubbing quite a lot.

  5. I’m in the shallow end of STEM, but my teachers always emphasized getting the right answer as quickly as possible. There is a reason for this. When you’re working, If you work 16 times harder and take twice as long as the other guy, they’re going to hire the other guy. How much effort you put in is irrelevant. It’s how much product you put out that counts. Consumers don’t really care about relative fairness. They ultimately just want their widget as cheap as possible.

    I don’t really care about the number of women in STEM. It can be 100%. It can be 0%. Ultimately I’d prefer the allocation of manpower to match with ability as much as possible. You pretty much have to be a leftist to think that allocating a bunch of people who aren’t good at something to that field in order to make it fair. If they’re applying to college and don’t have the right mindset to get themselves accepted on their own merit, the odds they’ll develop that mindset over the next 4-8 years isn’t very high.. and if they never achieve it, the odds they’ll be competitive in the field they go into can’t be considered great.

  6. As an Engineer myself, participation is never the answer, it is solving the problem correctly.
    The problem that lefties have with STEM jobs is that they are based on LOGIC and Mathematics, not feelings.

    And it is total BS that women can’t make in these fields, I have known and worked with some great female engineers, but they also worked hard at it, not settling for a participation award.

    Plus, one of the best engineers I know is my sister with a dual Masters from MIT in Mechanical Engineering and a Minor in Aeronautical Engineering (but I am still smarter than her, because I have a lot more experience).

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