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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Undergraduate council to evaluate role of preceptors

    The University of Arizona Undergraduate Council is researching the roles of preceptors and their influence on the grading process of their

    fellow classmates, as no clear policy is currently in place to restrict this practice.

    “”Right now there are guidelines and forms, but there aren’t many policies in regards to preceptors and grading,”” said Barbara McKean, chair of the undergraduate council and a theatre arts associate professor. “”We are working to see if there are things that should be made policy, although no decisions have been made yet.””

    Each semester, 150 to 175 students are voluntarily trained by UA teaching teams to become preceptors and provide open assistance to professors who determine how they can be most helpful, said Hal Larson, director of teaching teams.

    Although they are unpaid, Larson said preceptors often volunteer for the position for experience, in addition to receiving course credits and a grade, which can help raise a cumulative grade point average.

    Preceptors are different from graduate teaching assistants in that preceptors are either enrolled in the class or have recently completed the class. The Honors College and math department have undergraduate TAs who are paid but do not grade assignments or exams, according to undergraduate council reports.

    Thomas Fleming, a senior lecturer in astronomy who teaches the Tier Two Natural Sciences course astronomy 203, said he has about six to 12 preceptors each semester.

    In his classes, preceptors administer quizzes and assist in study sessions, but they play no part in grading.

    “”If I have teaching assistants, I don’t use preceptors,”” Fleming said. “”But preceptors help students greatly by providing peer reviews and helping to catch mistakes and typos prior to handing in an assignment.””

    Only students who have completed Family Education Rights and Privacy Act training are eligible to partake in the grading process, McKean said.

    But whether the student can grade assignments also depends on if the student is an undergraduate student or is enrolled in the class.

    While there is some leeway for grading, students who are congruently enrolled in a course in which they serve as a preceptor should not have the authority to grade, McKean said.

    “”We don’t think it’s fair for an undergraduate preceptor to grade fellow undergraduate students’ work,”” McKean said.

    But while some professors are unclear on the policy, Larson said preceptors are not allowed to participate in the grading process as a university rule.

    “”The university forbids preceptors from grading,”” Larson said. “”We want them to be able to interact with their classmates without being a part of the stigma or process of grading.””

    But McKean said no policy currently exists, a flaw that prompted a Nov. 8 memo sent by the undergraduate council to faculty members recommending they abstain from including preceptors in the grading process.

    “”We have made a recommendation to faculty that preceptors play no part in grading,”” McKean said.

    Peggy Ota, vice president for enrollment management and an associate professor of management information systems who teaches individuals and society 102, said she has the assistance of preceptors each semester.

    Grading for this discussion-based class is determined by hand-in papers, a debate and class participation, Ota said.

    While preceptors do not have the authority to grade papers, Ota said grading for participation and oral presentations is determined in part by a discussion that includes the opinions of preceptors.

    “”We will sit down in a teaching team and discuss what we think each student deserves,”” Ota said. “”But preceptors do not have the final say in any grade.””

    Larson said the current system has been in place since the origin of teaching teams in 1995.

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