Monday, November 19, 2012

Partial Credit

By Julie Rahm
     About one-thousand years ago, I graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in physics and mathematics. The curriculum, to say the least, was extremely demanding. I was definitely a round peg in a square hole. Or more appropriately, I was a round person in a world full of squares! I had many classes with engineering students. As I said, I was not an engineering student. But, the physics and engineering majors took a lot of the same mathematics courses together. Of course, the physics majors did not like the engineering majors. My fellow “physicists” viewed the “engineers” as a bunch of recipe followers. In their view, physicists write the recipes and the lesser engineers only follow them. As with cooking, the truly great chefs create their own fantastic recipes. Anybody can cook well if they have the recipe the great chef created. So it was with the physicists and engineers. The physicists viewed themselves as the great chefs. The engineers were lesser beings only following the recipes. The dynamics were interesting and the classes were brutal.
     One brutal aspect of most classes was the scoring of tests. There was no partial credit for a wrong answer. The answer was either exactly correct or it was completely wrong. In other subjects, students got partial credit for using the correct methodology. Even though their answer was wrong, if they were on “the right path”, professors gave them some credit for being close. This was not my experience with the mathematics professors at the University of Nebraska. At Nebraska, you were either right or completely wrong. It was a harsh policy. However, I understand the professors’ point of view. When engineers are designing a bridge, close is not good enough. Picture the aerospace engineers designing airliners. There is no room for inexactness. Close is not good enough for any engineering discipline. In engineering, lives depend on exact answers. Engineers understand and willingly accept the responsibility for being correct.
     Sadly, I often coach clients who view their relationships as engineering endeavors. As such, they think everyone must be correct one-hundred percent of the time. Unfortunately, human sciences are not engineering. Relationships are not exact. And, here is my point this week. Unlike University of Nebraska mathematics, in relationships, partial credit must be given. For example, when my husband John decides, while baking my birthday cake, that baking soda is an acceptable substitute for baking powder I still give him partial credit for the attempt and effort. Partial credit is an essential ingredient for a successful and happy relationship. Partial credit must go both ways. As another example, when I get the trash to the curb on collection day and forget some from inside, John gives me partial credit without chastising.
You’ll get full credit for visiting my website at Also, be among the first to visit The Pamlico News during Oriental’s Sprit of Christmas celebration and get a free America’s Mindset Mechanic tool set! 

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