Sunday, June 10, 2012

Are You Giving Grades or Recording Them?

I have a sort of electronic life-line to several instructors around the country. They send me ideas, links to helpful information, and point out issues in the book or on MyHVACLab that they would like addressed. One of my e-mail buddies, Gary Reecher at Scott Community College, sends me things from time to time that he believes would help other HVACR Instructors so that I can share them with more folks. Recently he sent a link to an article entitled “Why Some Students Need to Fail” by Melissa Nicolas. If you have been teaching any time at all, you have probably experienced a student who is desperately seeking a lifeline to pull them through the course. The compassionate nature of most teachers tugs at us to help solve the student’s problem. Instructors should work with students who are struggling to help them succeed. However, this help should not extend to giving the student a grade they did not earn. An analogy might be the boat that accompanies a swimmer as they try to swim across the English Channel. The people in the boat can help the swimmer navigate the course, they can provide hydration so that the swimmer stays healthy during the event, they can offer encouragement, and they can rescue the swimmer should it become impossible for the swimmer to continue. What they may not do, is put the swimmer in the boat, deliver them to the opposite shore, and then declare that the swimmer successfully swam the English Channel. Giving a student a passing grade when they have failed is like providing a ride in the boat and then declaring they swam the English Channel. 

In her article, Melissa Nicolas suggests a helpful change of verb for the awarding of a grade. Rather than “giving” grades, you are “recording” grades. In fact, recoding is really a better description. Giving suggests that you are reaching into your bag of goodies and pulling out a gift for each student. Students who receive an inferior grade will naturally feel slighted by their less generous gift. “Oh I am sorry Johnny, I am all out of A’s. How about a nice C+!” They may also see grades as an indication of how much the teacher likes them. Receiving an F not only hurts your grade point average, but also hurts your feelings because the F indicates that the teacher does not like you. Students need to know that their grades are an achievement, not a gift or an entitlement. The instructor is not giving grades, just recording the grades the students have earned. When they make their A, they know that nobody gave it to them, they earned it.

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