‘A’ rewards course mastery, not student effort

Katie Paysinger
News editor

With most students receiving their first graded work of the semester around this time, student and professor expectations are key topics in the classroom.
The process of grading can be difficult on both professor and student, and is an important subject across the country right now concerning professors’ requirements and students’
performances.
“Times are changing in how students are taught in their secondary education,” sophomore Lacey Dean said. “It is difficult for them to follow along in courses if their professors don’t teach the same way they are used to.”
Teachers generally reward student effort with As in high school classes, but A-worthy work in the classroom may translate to C work at Linfield. If a student only finishes requirements listed on the syllabus, he or she is only accomplishing the bare minimum. Some professors believe this does not deserve an A.
“Passing a class in college used to be getting a C,” Dean said. “But students don’t really have that mentality anymore. We are very much socialized to recognize As and Bs as acceptable grades.”
Changing that mentality is important as professors tend to differ in how they grade students. Some prefer straight grading, where percentages are clearly defined as to what is an A, B, C and so forth. However, curve grading gives the top percentage of the class As, the next tier Bs, and so on. The top percentage, however, may only be earning an 85 percent, but that still constitutes top marks in that particular course.
Victoria McGillin, vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty, said grading is all about communication between instructor and student. Professors should make the point to clarify what his or her expectations are in the syllabus and students should make sure to communicate any discrepancies, McGillin said.
“In high school, students tend to be rewarded for
effort,” McGillin said. “But knowledge and skills have to be demonstrated, no matter how hard you work.”
She used the example of a nursing student who may put forth a great deal of effort, but never truly masters the art of his or her work. That nursing student would not be successful working in a hospital, even though he or she made a valid attempt.
For the past 10 years, a phenomenon in the teaching field has been the practice of setting rubrics, similar to curve grading. The problem with it is it leaves out the possibility to fairly adjust grading when a student goes beyond what is required. It is also difficult to list all expectations a syllabus because it leaves out the unexpected.
“We can devise some sort of framework that gives the appearance of objectivity,” Tom Love, department chair and professor of sociology and anthropology, said. “But in fact it hides some of the evaluative nature of
grading.”
Love said one of the advantages of teaching at a small school is the ability to get to know your students and understand how they work. It is then easier to open the lines of communication.
“Each student is unique and can’t be compared,” Love said. “Right up front both student and professor should be clear about standards and expectations.”
Love and McGillin both stressed the importance of approaching faculty members when grading problems arise, as it could very likely be a misunderstanding or miscommunication. If the professor of the specific course is unable to fix the problem, the department chair would become involved and McGillin would then intervene.
Dean, a sociology major, understands how problems may arise when students accomplish everything on the syllabus and want an A, even though they only did what was considered typical work.
“If you want to do average work, you get a C,” she said. “If you want to do a little more you get a B. If you want to be extraordinary, then you can get the A.”

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