I have a tortured relationship with grade appeals. I admire the investment of students in their education. It takes courage to walk into an office hour and make a case for a higher grade to what may be an unreceptive audience. Whether it is the first office hour visit of the semester or the 100th, I appreciate a student who is willing to advocate for themselves. I also dread every one of these conversations where students sometimes pry into the minutia of assignments I put behind me months ago.
Over time I have developed some strategies for dealing with this that I have shared earlier. A recent article from Faculty Focus shed light on a different way to deal with these conversations, through rubrics. The argument is relatively simple: greater clarity in the grading process decreases complaints and can increase student performance. It can also prevent you from getting sued. A student literally sued University of Massachusetts, Amherst over a passing, but apparently unsatisfactory grade in 2007. He lost the case and it is extreme, but it does highlight the commitment of some students to the grades they feel they deserve.
There are other benefits to more systematized grading as well. A 2010 study by Bickes and Schim revealed rubrics as an effective way to curb grade inflation in a nursing program by standardizing grading practices across sections. I have always found the process of creating rubrics instructive as it forces me to consider the relative value of components of an assignment. Rubrics are not the answer to all your problems, but they do offer some real benefits in the short and long term.
Looking for time to form a Faculty Learning Community and develop some program rubrics? As luck would have it, we are in the window for Learning Enhancement Grants and I encourage you to apply for any worthy idea.
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* Bickes, J. T. & Schim, S. M. (2010). Righting writing: Strategies for improving nursing student papers. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 7, 1-11. doi: 10.2202/1548-923X.1964