Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Optimizing behavior - Revisited yet again

For those not up to date on my mandatory SSP class at UPEI, I am currently on course for a 64% without completing a final mandatory paper, or so I was told on Thursday. After what I can only assume was a discussion with administrators who demand discipline from students, my instructor now tells me that failure to do a satisfactory job of this paper puts my work ethic in question, which then lowers my mark for in-class work.

Yes, I still plan on putting this to the test. Previously, I asked the instructor about the minimum mark I needed on the paper to pass the course. The answer came back (-15%). That was reasoned from previous givens, and was consistent with all that had been said before. Well, all except for the project being mandatory.

Now, somehow magically, the standard has risen. There is now a feedback loop that was not previously discussed in the marking schedule. Even though the final mark is calculated from two blocks of marks, the in-class work and the final paper, the final paper now influences the in-class mark.

I challenge anybody to make sense out of that. If you can't and you decide to suspend me from UPEI based upon it, I have a moral obligation to tell everybody I can reach know how decisions are made at UPEI. I have a moral obligation to let Islanders know how their own personal tax-money pit manages human capital. I take education and obligations seriously. Perhaps I will get another chance to show how seriously.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Optimizing behavior - Revisited

Follow up on The Scourge of Optimizing Behavior

I got the number. I wanted to know the minimum score I would need on my final paper to get a 'P' in my SSP program.

The final mark is calculated like this:

Final Mark = 75%X(Class work) + 25%X(Final Paper)

If this is higher than 60% I get a 'P' on my transcript, rather than an 'F'. The final mark is never published.

So if I set the final mark to 60% we get:

.6 = .75C + .25P

Isolating P we get:

P = 2.4 - 3C

My instructor tells me my class work is between 85% and 90%. Let's take the worst case scenario of 85%. Sub .85 for C:

P = 2.4 - 3(.85)
P = -.15 = -15%!

That's right! I would have to get minus 15% on my final paper to be switched from a P to an F on my transcript.

This is the information the instructor was trying to keep from me. And I see why. Most school work is meaningless enough working for a grade, but to not even be working for a grade would just be foolish.

But the assignment is MANDATORY, so I will be sure to hand in a sheet of paper with something scribbled on it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Scourge of Optimizing Behavior

I am now coming from a Student Success Program (SSP) class. Taking this class is one of the conditions of my probation at UPEI. The class is not worth a credit, and in fact there will not even be a final mark published, merely a P or F.

To this end I have no interest in putting any more into the class than what is needed to get a P. So I put a question to the instructor, "What is the minimum mark I would need on my final paper to get a P?" The instructor told me that he wanted to get me out of such optimizing behavior. And this is not new to me as I experienced similar resistance to optimization while in the military.

The entire SSP course is about giving new tools to get through academia. But just like my instructor's comments, the tools are more geared to putting more into your studies than getting more out.

The common theme here is that if you are not optimizing then you are wasting. And they want you to waste, so long as they receive the excess.

Coleman suspends negative ads before debate

Obama has been pulling ahead in the polls. ERIC BLACK puts Obama's lead somewhere between commanding and dominating. Real clear politics puts the count at 313-158-67 (read: Obama-McCain-Toss Up).

Franken v. Coleman v. Barkley hotter than ever. The advertisement violence between Franken and Coleman has left their names worse for the ware, though Coleman committed recently to suspend his negative ads. But Barkley has not engaged in any of it. His name is intact and is now polling at 14%. The Barkley campaign knows that these numbers don't mean so much for third party candidates as they face down the 'wasted ballot' syndrome. As respondents who like a third party over the phone may vote for a major party candidate to protect their interests. Barkley suggests this behavior becomes far less once a third party candidate reaches the 25% mark.

All three candidates participated in the race's second debate, held on Sunday, Oct 12. No clear winner has emerged. Reports suggest Barkley held Coleman responsible for the economic meltdown, as it happened on his watch.