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“Grade Grubbing”

It strikes me why Korean profs so often get their grades into the computer system so quickly. Yes, now, after so many years here…

My grades went into the computer system at the Uni only a little more than 24 hours ago, and already, my email inbox is bursting with pleas. Last night — get this, New Year’s Eve! — I got 12 emails in total. Today, another 3 or 4.

Of these, exactly four have been valid (in my books) inquiries. One was from a student who was wondering why she got an F when she’d done all her work and handed in her essay. (It was a gradesheet error.) Another was from a student who had asked to do makeup work, and delivered on it. A third was from a student who was less than 1% short of getting an A, and who asked me to bump her up to A simply because her workplace won’t allow her to continue leaving the office to attend night classes unless she is getting As in her classes. And another was a student asking why the grade that had originally been entered for her in one class, A+, was suddenly changed to an A.

The rest?

Some of them are begging for a + to be added to an A or a B. Several students have confessed to me that they want an A+ because, like Obi Wan Kenobi was for Princess Leia, I am their only hope… for a scholarship, for achieving the grade point average necessary to secure living space in the campus dormitory, for a job and a career in the future. I swear, if I read the phrase, “My family is in a bad financial situation right now,” again, I my head will explode.  I feel sympathy, of course, but being strapped for money is not the reason a person gets an A in a class. (Though I might consider it in a smaller class, I’m especially not going to bump someone up when someone else, who actually scored higher, is going to have to be bumped down, because the University maintains strict limits on how many As and Bs can be handed out in large classes.)

Some  other emails have contained frank confessions that boil down to something like this: “Hey, I know I didn’t work hard, but please give me a B at least, or maybe an A,” and some are people wondering how they got the grade they did.

One student actually had the temerity to call into question my evaluation system, about which  he’s known from the first week of classes — I mentioned that peer evaluation would figure into the grading system. He said he couldn’t sleep the night before, and he wanted me to knowmy system is unfair. (Which is silly since not only do those who lowball their peers get more than balanced out by those who over-reward their peers, handing out As and A+s far more easily than I myself would — but also because his peers actually evaluated him at pretty close to the same grade he gave himself for participation!

Anyway, I think I’m going to add a comment to the end of my syllabus next semester to the effect that grades are non-negotiable, and that non-valid inquiries about grades will not be responded to. What a waste of time it’s been explaining to people that, no, I will not (and at this point really cannot) change their grades for no valid reason.

I am only writing about this now, and here, because Lime is kind of bored of hearing about how many emails I’ve gotten from students on a freaking national holiday, and because, really, it’s kind of amazing. New Year’s Eve, spent writing emails of complaint to professors about their grades. Would anyone receiving such an email on such an inappropriate day really be inclined to change the grade?

Ah well, it’ll be better when I have a nice piece of self-evaluation software, running verbal self- and peer-evaluations. I’ll be able to print out records from students, and show them how they evaluated themselves. Hell, I’ll be able to direct them to their own evaluation records, which will be available online, and they’ll be able to access them all the way along. No alarms and no surprises, that’s the idea.

Note to self: make sure it’s only verbal feedback that they’re able to access, at least at first. The self-evaluations should be about what to work harder on in class, not about what numbers they’re getting so they can track and complain at the end when they feel like finding a way to call the system unfair.

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