What College Students Don’t Like
In February, I posted an article entitled Is It Wrong to Grade on Class Participation? In that article I pointed out the importance of clarifying class participation expectations and giving students feedback. Something a student said to me recently prompted me to write this follow-up article.
A student came to me a few days ago to complain about the grade he was getting in a course. Actually, after going through the calculations with him, it turned out he had an A locked up. However, when he came into my office very concerned about his class participation grade. His syllabus clearly stated that class participation accounted for 10 percent of the final grade. The instructor allegedly told this young man that his class participation grade was 5 percent. The student assured me that he participated more in class than any other student. He had challenged his instructor with that same claim. According to the student, his instructor said that no one in the class was receiving the full 10 percent on class participation.
The student wanted me to confirm that it was wrong for his instructor not to give the full 10 percent to the student who participated the most. As always, I did a little tap dance around his challenge so as not to point a finger at my instructor. I told the student that perhaps his frame of reference included other classes that he has taught.
So, assuming my instructor will not be giving anyone more than 5 percent for class participation, is that wrong? The answer is … drum roll … more drum roll … “maybe.” There are three issues here:
- Did the students have a clear understanding of the instructor’s rubric for assigning the class participation grade?
- Did the students know how they were doing against that rubric?
- Is it acceptable to give less than full credit to the best performing student in the class.
If the answers to the first two questions are “yes,” and if the instructor had created an “achievable” rubric, then all is well. The instructor could curve the class participation grades, but that isn’t required and may not be justified. Just as all well-written goals are achievable, so should students be able to achieve full credit for their work. Of course, that doesn’t mean any will.
Time out! What did I just say? With my “wonder words of would-be wisdom,” I believe I have hit on something. (I’m half smart!) Grading rubrics should follow the same guidelines as goals. Have you heard of SMART Goals? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable (some authors say Acceptable), Realistic, and Time Limited. As with goals, grading rubrics and overall grading policies should also be Specific, Measurable, Achievable , Realistic, and Time Limited.
If your SMART Goal is to be a Smart Instructor, one thing you need to do is create a SMART Grading Policy. It isn’t difficult … (Bad pun alert! Bad attempt at humor ahead. Proceed with caution!) As I started to say before I so rudely interrupted myself, it isn’t difficult to create a SMART grading policy. It doesn’t “smart” a bit. 🙂
© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.
Posted May 7, 2010