Sometimes assigning grades can be the most unpleasant part of the semester. Attaching summative value to a semester’s worth of work can seem reductive and dismissive of the growth and learning we see in our students. My least favorite part of the grading process has always been the request to “bump” grades based on effort, proximity to another letter grade, or an impassioned plea. In most of my courses I have go so far as to issue a Blackboard announcement making it clear grades are not raised OR lowered based on criteria extraneous to the syllabus.I was also eager to use the “I don’t give grades, you earned them” zinger whenever possible. My justifications were always clear to me.
- Grade breakdowns along the guidelines specified in the syllabus are the fairest way to deliver grades. Anything else is unpredictable.
- If I were to bump grades up, students have to be ready for me to bump them down for similarly arbitrary reasons, otherwise the practice leads to grade inflation.
- Grades are a product of work and performance. If students want better grades, they need to perform better.
This may not be the perspective you take when assigning letter grades at the end of the semester. You may have even better reasons for your policies. My advice is to make whatever grading policy you have clear to your students. If you move grades up and down based on some additional criteria at the end of the semester, let your students know in advance. If grades follow a strict statistical model, make sure it is in the syllabus. We don’t owe our students good grades, but we do owe them transparency and honesty in the process.
Top 10 reasons to come to the Faculty Grading Oasis (open 8-5) in MLIB 458
- Get out of your office…where the walls are closing in on you.
- No one knocks on the door asking where the bathroom is.
- Free coffee and treats.
- Student help if you need exams alphabetized or data entered (as long as we are FERPA compliant).
- Bring one thing and focus on it rather than getting distracted at home or your office.
- Experience the magic of the 4th floor of the library.
- You are unlikely to run into that colleague who roams the hallway, complaining about how much grading they have to do.
- We are closer to Common Grounds than where you normally work.
- Our office is now is now 173 days since our last Chupacabra attack. You will probably be safe.
- We control our thermostat.