Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How to Cope Successfully with Grade Grubbers

Here is the third in the series of problems that classroom teachers have to manage successfully in order to help every student succeed. Even young students can surprise us with this one.
Problem 3: Grade Grubbing
One of those awkward moments that educators learn to dread can occur when a student either is unhappy with a grade on an assignment or wants to raise his or her overall average. It usually begins when student asks to speak to you about a recently returned graded assignment. Often he or she will begin by telling you how many hours went into studying or preparing the assignment. Then, the request to change the grade comes. If you refuse right away, then the student will counter with a request for extra credit, a reference to another student’s paper, and maybe even a charge that the work was too difficult, too confusing, or that you are unfair. Sometimes, students will even request that you offer them extra credit to pull up their grades.

The grade grubbing student is obviously not interested in a better grasp of the material, just in a higher grade. Often the situation is made worse when the student does this in front of his or her classmates, forcing us to have to respond quickly and appropriately in front of a crowd of very interested onlookers.

Although it is our responsibility to make sure that every assessment is fair and that our students understand how their grades are calculated, teachers can’t be expected to just abandon our standards when students protest their grades.
Student anxiety about grades has many unpleasant causes and regrettable effects. It is our responsibility to make sure that every student’s concerns are treated with dignity and respect even if we find ourselves impatient with the request.
Your Goals

  • To help these students understand the importance of learning the material and not just getting a grade
  • To avoid conflicts with students and their families over grades
  • To encourage students to work to their potential
  • To maintain a positive relationship with every student
  • To help students manage their anxiety about grades
  • To make sure that you are perceived as a fair teacher
  • To avoid future requests from students who are only interested in grades
Mistakes to Avoid

  • Allowing a student question about a grade to develop into a conflict
  • Not establishing a transparent classroom grading policy
  • Not taking student concerns about grades seriously
  • Dismissing every student question about your grading practices as grade grubbing
  • Assigning a subjective grade for activities such as class participation, paying attention, being on time to class, or even effort
Strategies to Prevent Grade Grubbing                                      

  • Make sure to publish your standards for success on every assignment so that students are clear about what they need to do to succeed.
  • Make sure that your standards are reasonable and in keeping with your school district’s policies.
  • Be meticulous about how you grade papers and then record those grades.
  • Take care to present yourself as a competent professional who has made sound decisions about how an assignment should be evaluated.
  • Be as objective as possible about the way that you assign grades.
  • Make a rubric available to students before they begin work on an assignment.
  • Offer plenty of models, samples, and examples so that students will know what you expect of them.
  • Make sure that your classroom is transparent: students and their parents and guardians should know what they need to do and how to do it well.
  • Show students how grades are calculated on various assignments as well as how to average their own grades. Make it easy for them to understand the grading process.
Strategies to Use When Students Ask for Special Consideration

  • Be sure to aside enough time to sit down with the student and work out a solution.
  • Stress that you want to work together to make sure that every grade is as fair as possible.
  • Be careful to let students know that you take their concerns seriously. Treat them with dignity.
  • Even though you probably have already shown the entire class how to work out their grades, take the time to go over this again to make sure the student knows exactly how you arrived at their average or the grade on the assignment.
  • Don’t offer extra credit to just one student. It is not fair to do this for just one. If you do adjust grades by offering additional work, make sure that the work you offer is not just a quick fix that will skew grades.
  • Don’t just give in when a student requests special consideration regarding grades. You will open the door to future unpleasant scenes if you do not proceed with caution and care.