Posted on 12-03-2010
Filed Under (Conflicts over grades) by Anita Kelly

Every semester some students miss the mark on my first exam. Sadly, they do far worse than they expect and are left wondering what do to. Since there are only 3 exams (and no final) that make up the whole grade for the semester, they are in a tough spot.

Some will email me and tell me how bad they feel. They will ask what I think they should do. They seem surprised when I respond, “What prevents you from dropping my class?” It’s as if students believe that we professors think that you should stick it out no matter what. They think that things somehow will get better by the end of the semester if  they simply stick it out.

Here’s my advice: If your university gives you the opportunity to drop classes well into the semester, do it. Dump those classes that will hurt your GPA. There is no reason to feel guilty for dropping.

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Posted on 10-12-2009
Filed Under (Conflicts over grades) by Anita Kelly

A few years ago, a hardworking student in my personality course got a D. Her mother sent me a letter explaining that an accident during her daughter’s birth had caused her to have difficulty taking multiple choice tests. She asked me to change the grade to a C- so that her daughter could maintain eligibility for her sport.

I found that very, very sad. But I didn’t change the grade. The mom contacted the dean’s office to complain about me. I still didn’t change the grade. The reason is that it wouldn’t have been fair to the rest of the class.

If you see a professor about a grade that you think was somehow unfair, here’s what I recommend that you do. Email the professor to see if you can meet to discuss your grade. When you meet with the professor, explain why you believe you deserve a higher grade. Make your argument so that the professor can increase your grade while still being fair to the rest of the class.

Once and only once did I change a grade in my seminar for a student. She told me that a change from her B- to a B would allow her to graduate with honors. However, that’s not why I changed her grade. I changed it because I had told all the students at the beginning of the semester that if they were between two grades and had performed relatively higher in their oral, as compared with their written, participation then they would get the higher grade. I felt that her oral participation had been slightly better than her papers. This allowed me to be consistent across all the students in the class when I changed her grade.

So the bottom line is make your argument so that your teacher can change your grade while staying consistent and fair to the rest of the class. Oh, and don’t get your parents involved. Professors automatically push back when parents try to influence us. 

Please post your experiences and let students know about your successful or unsuccessful attempts to get a grade changed.

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