Back in the day (well, ok, even today) as a student I never worried about my grades unless I failed. If I received a C in high school, it didn’t devastate me. It was just one person’s evaluation of what he or she thought I knew about the particular subject. I shrugged at it and went on with life.
My understanding of today’s high school students is that they care more about the letter grade than they do about truly understanding the course. Parental expectations and an attitude of “I’m the best and I deserve an A+ “has become an increasing problem that has migrated from high school to higher education.
Over my eight-year college teaching career I noticed the increased number of students who attempt to bargain with me for “just one more point” on an assignment. The pressure to inflate grades began to creep into the profession. For some students, receiving a low mark was a shock because high school students in Ontario rarely fail a grade or subject. The reality is that not all students are suitable for college or university. They are not prepared for the amount of work, the real possibility of failure and the tight deadlines.
One of my former students actually had the audacity to rather loudly say to me that he deserved to pass because he’d paid his tuition. I pointed out that he had attended only three classes and handed in two of the six assignments … and one was a month late, so he received a zero.
I later found out that he didn’t pass any of his courses and was removed from the program and prohibited from attending the college for a number of semesters.
Another grading issue tempers this privileged mindset: Grade inflation. If you’re not familiar with the term, here’s a quick explanation: Twenty years ago, a D meant learner had a basic grasp of subject. Over the years “basic grasp” slowly moved to a C and then a B. Now students feel that they should get an A if they show up to every class and hand in all assignments on time. The quality of the assignments and the class participation, they believe, should not be marked because they did the best they could. This could easily translate into receiving an A for effort.
It is clear from these two examples of grading issues affecting professors today that the teaching profession must take action to uphold learning standards. This can be done by creating a clearly defined rubric for each assignment and returning a completed and detailed mark sheet to students with the assignments.
I always pointed out where a student did well on an assignment, as well as where they was room for improvement. I clearly justified why he or she received the mark in a clear breakdown of predetermined assignment attributes.
Some of my colleagues thought that my method was too time-consuming, but I saved time in the long run by not spending time haggling with students over marks, and not wasting my time sitting in academic appeals.
Students may view their letter grade as the pay cheque they receive at the end of the semester, but professors receive their bi-weekly pay cheques to uphold the integrity of the college, their program, the profession, and their own ethics