Friday, October 1, 2010

But I NEED a C

It never fails.  Every semester, a student approaches me, typically at the point at which they're irrevocably failing the course, to tell me they "need" a C.  If they don't get that C, all kinds of dire things will happen to them - they'll get kicked out of school, lose their financial aid, be dropped from the sports team, won't be able to transfer to some other college, whatever.

We'll ignore the fact that no student ever faces those consequences because they fail one course.  At our community college, those are consequences that come from failing many courses over multiple semesters.  The attempted guilt trip simply doesn't work on me.

Now maybe I could also understand the plea for leniency in grading if my grading scheme were completely subjective and arbitrary, but it's not.  Here's my Physical Geology lab course grading scheme exactly as given in the syllabus handed out of the first day of class.

     36% - Midterm (18%) & Final (18%) Exams
     18% - Ten Course Assignments (2% for 9)
       5% - Saturday Field Trip
     30% - Twelve Lab Exercises (2.5% each)
       8% - Rock & Mineral Identification Quiz
       8% - Laboratory Final Exam

It adds up to 105% because the all-day Saturday field trip is extra credit (I can't force students to come on a Saturday and field trips are hugely important in geology classes - we have field trips during lab time too).

Anyway, I enter grades for each exam, lab, or assignment into a spreadsheet and it calculates the final grade based on the above percentages.

These students never come and argue their actual grades on the exams, labs, or assignments.  They just want extra points or for me to make up some alternative assignments for them to do for credit.   While I'm always willing to work with students who have a good, documented reason for problems during the semester (illness, death in the family, etc), I'm certainly not willing to do extra work myself (creating new bullshit assignments) because a student couldn't be bothered to do any of the original assignments and turn them in when due.

My attitude is that if the student "needed" a C, they should have come to class every time (instead of having a half-dozen absences), finished all of the assignments, and studied a bit more for exams (these are typically students who miserably fail exams where the class average is in the 70s or higher).

I just think it's unethical to "give" grades based on student's desires.  For this, I'm considered a hardass by some of my colleagues. 

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