An article ("Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes") in the NY Times describes how many students today think they should get a good (= A/B) grade if they just show up for a class and do the required reading or other assignments.
The article doesn't present the issue in a very coherent way, but a few items in the article will probably resonate with many professors, especially those who teach large classes at big universities.
Some [students] assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.
I have many students tell me "But I'm an A student" (when they get a B or lower), as if they've signed up for the A Plan and I am too clueless to understand that essential point.
.. a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.
Some students in my intro science class think they should get an A because it is an intro course. I am quite happy if many students get a grade of A, but a student has to demonstrate some comprehension of the material to get an A.
“Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “
I have an inbox filled with student email saying "I studied really hard for the quiz.." (so why didn't I get an A?).
This post might sound cynical, but I must not be completely cynical because this surprised me:
Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade.
That certainly explains a lot though.
“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” [a student] said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”
What else is there indeed? One would hope that with effort would come understanding of essential concepts, but I know it isn't as easy as that for some students.
"If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong."
That's a tricky statement. What is maximum effort anyway? Is it measured in units of time?
Something that bothered me about the article is that it was written as if students and instructors only interact via grades and complaints. If one of my students feels that their effort is not translating into success with quizzes or whatever, they can talk to me.
They can talk to me not to complain or impress upon me how hard they are studying, but to ask me substantive questions about the course material. I can give some study pointers (come to class; look at the review questions on the website; do the sample quizzes), but mostly what I can do is explain things.
[Professor Brower] said that if students developed a genuine interest in their field, grades would take a back seat, and holistic and intrinsically motivated learning could take place.
OK, maybe I am really cynical. Having a genuine interest in a topic and caring about grades are not mutually exclusive. Most students at most schools have to care about grades; the academic system requires them to. I would much prefer not to give grades,
13 years ago