Thursday, February 26, 2015

Of students, their grades, and their just deserts

Courtesy of a link provided by CenTexTim, we find an article titled 'Dear Student: No, I Won’t Change the Grade You Deserve'.  It begins like this.

... 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.

The author goes on to quote letters written to students by a number of professors, explaining (in astonishingly polite ways) why they aren't going to revise their grades.  Here's just one example out of many.

Dear Student Who Must Be Out Of Their Mind:

I hope all is well with you. Are you, by any chance, related to the student who failed my class and asked that I give them an A because they “liked the class so much?” I’m just asking because this question you’ve posed is just as silly as that one.

Pursuant to the detailed rubric provided for the assignment that we reviewed in class, the work you did on this paper was questionable. What you turned in was riddled with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and formatting inconsistencies. Your paper didn’t respond to the prompts for the assignment at all and didn’t even reference the provided course content, let alone go beyond it in any meaningful way. The grade you received is reflective of the fact that what I got was a mash-up of poorly constructed sentences and last minute fooleywang.

And for real, I need you to focus less on the grade and more on the learning. Here’s the thing: had you focused on learning and on effectively completing the assignment, you would have gotten an A. Instead, you’re out here so focused on the grade that your submitted work was well below my expectations and your abilities.

Get your shit together. Please and thank you.


Dr. “I know you didn’t just come to me with this foolishness” Amin

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading.  Entertaining, but simultaneously infuriating!

I'm afraid I'm completely out of touch with this sort of attitude.  I can't even begin to understand it.  I completed four university qualifications;  three degrees and a post-graduate certificate.  Every one was paid for out of my own pocket;  every one was completed through distance education and part-time study (because I couldn't afford to study full-time);  and every one required that I submit a certain number of assignments and projects for every course and module.  If my grades weren't up to scratch, I didn't even get to sit the examination, much less pass that subject!

Where the hell do students come from today with this "I'm entitled!" bull?  If I'd tried any of that nonsense, I wouldn't have had to worry about my professors.  My own father would have taken the time, trouble and expense to travel to wherever I was, just so he could save them the trouble of kicking my backside back into line!  Seems to me someone should motivate a lot more fathers to do likewise . . .



Anonymous said...

i guess this is caused by the "participation trophy" phenomena rampant in k-12. the students think that they deserve their trophy, an A, because they showed up (and may or may not have actually tried).

Murphy's Law said...

It's sadly not much different in the working world today. "Generation cupcake" has gotten out of school and is employed, and I have several working for me who feel that their mere presence, accompanied by a total lack of productivity or effort (and usually a bad attitude towards the job in general) should rate higher than the basic "fully successful" evaluation rating that I give then, and that only because we are no longer allowed to give lesser ratings no matter how bad they are at the job. Those who do nothing but still get the equivalent of a "C" will often demand that their review grade be raised so that they appear competitive with their peers who actually do stuff, and when I refuse, here come the grievances and EEO complaints. And if you think that it's bad now, just wait another decade or so, and it'll be this bunch who will be in charge as those of us with actual work ethic are aging out.

Paul, Dammit! said...

Yup. Used to get a lot of that as a TA and lab instructor. The education track kids who couldn't hack the STEM courses got used to A's for attendance. Saying "B is good; it means you did above average work" really never got the reaction I hoped for.

Expatriate Owl said...

In the 20+ years I have been teaching, there may have been 2 or 3 semesters where I DID NOT receive the entitlement whine. I must admit that when I first started out, I did have a few soft spots, but after one time too many of waking up the next morning hating myself, I decided that I needed a reputation for toughness, and that the best way to acquire such a reputation is to be tough.

I was in no danger of getting a Phi Beta Kappa key in my college days, but I succeeded. In many respects I learned the most in those classes where the final grade was less than "A".

So I started acting resolute, and developed a reputation, and now, the entitlement whines have decreased (but not disappeared entirely).

My favorite one goes to the effect that the student needs to raise his/her GPA or they lose their scholarship or flunk out or some other horror, so can I please raise their grade? My response: Why is it MY responsibility to raise your GPA? Why can't your other professors do it? Especially the ones who assigned you a grade lower than the one you merited in my course.

And, like Murphy, I shudder at the thought of how things will be when those with the entitlement attitude start occupying supervisory positions in the workforce.

Divemedic said...

If you want to know why, simply Google the terms "IEP" or "504 plan"

These plans are put in place when the student's family comes in with a note from a doctor saying that the child has a medical condition that interferes with learning.

After that, the child is eligible under Federal Law to receive "accommodations" and their scholastic record cannot mention them. If the school doesn't comply, the parents can file a discrimination lawsuit.

Just try giving a student the grade they earn for not doing assignments, and see how fast some parents arrive at the school, attorney in tow.

Merlin said...

"fathers", Peter, where did you get such an old fashioned concept?

Guncrazy said...

"Desserts." -1

You still have a 99.99% in the class, though. ;-)

Peter said...

@Guncrazy: Actually, that was deliberate.


fillyjonk said...

I am just a bit older, and I grew up before the "everyone gets a trophy" mindset developed. And I grew up in a family where the response to earning a less-than-ideal grade was "work harder and do better next time."

I don't often get students asking me to raise their grade "because they really tried." More commonly, I get requests for "extra credit" days before the final (sometimes even AFTER) and it is usually from people who didn't do all the work assigned in the class anyway. (My reaction is: "Why should I make more work for myself when you couldn't hand in all the labs?")

Or I get the veiled threats: "You're getting me knocked off the Dean's List!" (No, you did - because you earned a D on that exam). Or "You have ruined my life because you are not giving me an A, now I won't get into medical school." (You should have thought of that when you skipped handing in five labs.)

A lot of it comes down to the person deciding, who is responsible for how I am doing in school? I was taught that the answer was, "You are." Too many students seem to assume that it's always someone else's fault. (This was also true to an extent when I was in college and grad school - though people with that attitude didn't last long in grad school.)