Dear Student: No I Won’t Change The Grade You Deserve

You’ve all heard the trope: Children today grow up believing it’s their effort that matters. Everyone gets a trophy, and everyone deserves to be praised just for showing up. As one author put it: “Parents have moved from feeling they should give their children everything they need, to giving them everything they want.”

You can debate how much truth there is here. But plenty of professors have told me that when many of their students get to college, they lug into the classroom a sense of academic entitlement—a belief that their papers and exams should be graded on how hard they’ve worked, not how well they’ve mastered the material. When they don’t receive the grades they think they deserve, many take the matter up with the graders.

When that happens, one thing becomes clear: Their feelings about the quality of their work often don’t match the reality of their performance. Instead of seeing their grades as a reflection of how well they interpreted or executed their assignments, some students will come to a different conclusion: The assignment was too difficult. Or my professor doesn’t get me.

For many professors—especially faculty without tenure or the job security that comes with it—this poses a problem. Pleas to re-evaluate work can draw professors into annoying confrontations—or force them to explain the mechanics of grading to students, and sometimes angry parents, department chairs, or deans.

So I decided to ask a few professors, a learning consultant, and a graduate student how they would respond to these requests. Let’s say a student who received a C grade on a paper asks you to reread it and change their grade because they “worked so hard on it.” How would you respond? <Read the responses.>

Via Stacey Patton, The Chronicle of Higher Education Vitae.

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