Grade Troubles


As a former student teacher and a current teaching assistant, one of my least favorite parts of teaching is grading. I hate grading. I hate being graded. I hate being the grader. Everything about grades makes me uncomfortable.

Even with the use of rubrics, which I highly recommend, grades can often feel arbitrary. The difference between an “outstanding” and an “acceptable” feels subjective, and knowing that the recipient of the grade can be heavily impacted by that small difference is uncomfortable. With the most recent assignment I graded, I spent hours agonizing over the twenty-eight papers I had to grade. With each paper being at least five pages, I had at least 140 pages to read, assess, and  return within 14 days. After spending so long on the grading process, returning the papers felt like a relief. I reviewed my grades, making sure that none had suffered unfairly due to a bad day, and sent them out.

Then came the fallout. Grading as a TA is different than as a professor, in that students often feel more comfortable appealing grades. Almost immediately, I received two e-mails requesting re-evaluations. Two more followed. In total, four students asked for their grades to be reconsidered. BAM. Talk about an awful feeling.

The difference between "excellent" and "very good" is sometimes not clear...even to the grader! (Image Credit:http://stmcs.org/reportcards.html)

It’s well within your rights as a student to appeal your grade. But before you begin bellowing for a better grade and insisting on a re-evaluation, take the time to read your initial evaluation. That way, when you have a meeting with the person who graded your work, you can have an informed conversation rather than just insisting you did better than a B-. In a grade appeal meeting, you should also be respectful of the person who did the grading in the first place. After all, he or she spent a lot of time determining the original grade, and so reconsidering can be difficult. While you should certainly point out why you believe you should have received a higher grade, you also have to be wiling to listen as the grader explains why you received the grade you did.

What do you think about grades? Love ’em or leave ’em?

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Filed under Academic Advice, My Experiences

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