Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I would like to offer some unsolicited advice to grade-grubbers. Actually, I would like to offer advice to students who wish to talk to professors or T.A.s in an attempt to get their grades raised. Not all of these students come across as grade-grubbers. Sometimes they are actually right. Here is how to make your case.

First of all, have a good reason that your grade should be higher.

Some things that are not good reasons:

Here are some better reasons:

And here is how to behave when you go in to grade grub ask for a higher grade.

I think you should print this out and pin it on your office door. I would love to do this (with your permission, of course). I get SO SICK of students deciding (after a semester of blowing off course work, cutting classes and sleeping through labs) that the day after the final exam is the time to start caring about the class.

I recently had a student's mother call me and try to chew my ear off about her wonderful son's grade, pulling out all the usual tricks (money donated, my lowly status). I wish I'd had this very articulate and resonant post at my disposal at the time!
I'm always totally shocked when their parents call. I would have been mortified. On the other hand, I don't think it would ever have occurred to me to ask for a higher grade, so I'm clearly not coming at this with the right mindset.
"I'm not actually all that interested in how hard you worked. The reward for working hard is that you do better than you would have had you blown off your schoolwork. I do slightly reward students who have worked hard, especially when they're on the margin between two grades. But when you come in and start telling me how hard you slaved, it just comes off as whining."

I had a friend at undergrad who did this. First he whinged to our TA. Then he whinged to the course director. For some reason the head of department and vice-chancellor were spared. He did, however, whinge to me for the rest of the year. I had lower grades than him, worked just as hard and put the lowness of grades down to moving up a level from school. (the joys of fresherhood... anyone want to go back?) So i found it irritating even then.
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