My recent post on grading student papers drew some comments from both professors and students both here on the blog and on Facebook. Lendol has convinced me to break out the department rubric and Christine has made me more sensitive to student concerns.
Now, as the new semester at Messiah College is about to begin, I offer Rob Weir’s list of the most popular start of the semester student comments and questions. I must admit that I have heard a variation on all of them.
“I need to get an ‘A’ in this course.”
I will never forget the psychology student who decided to take one of my history courses in the last semester of her senior year. She was a good student and an even better person, but I do not think she was prepared for all the writing and reading in an upper-division history course. With one paper and a final exam left in the semester she was doing A- work, but certainly had the potential to pull an “A” in the class if she really nailed these final two assignments. A week before the final paper was due she came into my office to tell me that she had a 4.0 GPA and if she did not get an “A” in my course I would ruin her perfect college career. Wow! I really think she expected me to respond to her statement with something like: “OK, no problem. I don’t want to ruin your life so I will be happy to give you the “A” regardless of the quality of your final two assignments.” Instead, I told her that if she was truly a 4.0 student she would step up to plate and write a darn good final paper and ace the final exam. While I think this student worked a lot harder in the final week of her college career than she had hoped, she did manage to get the “A” and I had the pleasure of informing her at a reception held the night before graduation.
“I need this course to stay in school and I’m willing to work hard.”
I don’t think I have ever heard this one, but I have heard variations on it such as “I need a good grade in this course to keep my scholarship” or “I need to get a ‘B’ in this course to stay on the lacrosse team.
“Is this course going to be fun?”
My answer: Of course it is. You get the chance to learn something! And then there is the variation on this theme: “Is this course going to be hard?” Of course it is! All learning requires hard work.
“If I miss a few classes, will it hurt me?”
When I get this question I refer students to the official attendance policy on the syllabus. But I also add that in a history course, where every lecture and discussion builds off the last, a missed class will always hurt you.
“If I screw up, can I do an extra credit project?”
I usually do not give extra credit for “screw-ups.” (Student readers: Do your profs offer you a lot of extra credit opportunities? I am curious?). But I am happy to work closely with students to try to help them do better on the next test/exam. I will, however, give extra credit to students who attend a lecture on campus that relates to course content. (And there are many at Messiah College–one of the many things we do very well!). I usually have them write a 1-2 page paper summarizing the theme of the lecture and connecting it to what we are doing in class. Professors: What is your view on extra credit?
Check out Weir’s helpful article.