All Posts Tagged With: "fair"
Most grades are reasonable and well-explained. What do you do when one isn’t?
One of my many duties as chair of an academic department is dealing with student appeals. I’ve been dealing with such an appeal over the last couple of weeks, and it brought to mind a question that most students face at one time or another. What do I do when I think the grade I received is unfair?
The first thing to do is nothing. Do not go racing into your instructor’s office waving your paper with tears of rage in your eyes. Take at least 24 hours to consider the grade you received and to reflect on whether or not it was reasonable. If the instructor has included comments, read them carefully and, as honestly as you can, ask yourself whether the problems pointed out are genuine.
Even professional scholars face this kind of criticism. When I sent a draft of my book to my publisher, I received comments to the effect that the book was good but something must be done about chapter five. I had thought chapter five was quite good, and at first I was angry that these numskulls had pissed on my work. But that was just a bruised ego on my part. After I cooled down, and looked at chapter five again, I had to admit that it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. When it comes to intellectual work, intelligence is less important than humility.
If after some time, you still feel that your grade is unfair, you should see your instructor. At my university students are actually obliged to contact their instructors directly before they take further steps. And, in fact, most student concerns are handled at this preliminary stage. An instructor may have made an error in calculating or submitting a grade; the student, on hearing a fuller explanation of a mark may realize it was fair after all; or, the instructor, on further thought, might think a higher grade is justified after all.
Approach this conversation as a conversation, not a presentation of demands. If you take the position, even by implication, that you know you’re brilliant and if your prof can’t see it, he must be a moron, then your instructor will only dig in his heels further. Do not say that you did much better than this in high school, or that you are getting higher marks in other classes — no professor in the history of the university has ever been convinced by those arguments. Instead, ask your instructor to explain comments and problems in more detail; ask what you might have done differently; ask whether your instructor allows students to rewrite papers. If these answers seem unsatisfactory, ask if the instructor would mind looking over it once more, just to be sure that’s the correct grade.