A note about the end of the semester (I really should have posted this a few weeks ago): sometimes I get students that come in and say they are not happy with their grade. It is not unusual for them to come in right before the test, but it seems more common to come after all the grades are finished. Here is a typical student:
“I really need a C (or D) in this class, but I have a 67%. Is there anything I can do to bring my grade up? Maybe I could do an extra project, or file some papers or wash your car?”
That is not one real student, but I have had students ask if they could file my papers or wash my car for the grade they needed. Oh, I know they should have come to me around midterm to discuss their grade, but that is a different issue. The problem here is that they are thinking of the grade as a reward for them doing something. In their grade-model, if they come to class and do the homework and take the tests, they should get the grade.
But really, the grade is my evaluation of their understanding of the material. Will doing an extra research project show that the student understands the material at a higher level? Obviously, washing my car won’t do that.
I have changed grades before
Yes, I have. If you are a student and you want a higher grade, you need to come in and show me that you understand the material at a level that was different than you showed on the exam. Most students don’t come in with this attitude.
So, here is the course of events. Student does poorly on exam. The student then comes to my office. I ask the student to work some physics problem on the board. After the problem is finished (or as far as the student can go), I ask “what grade do you think this problem deserves?” Some students will just say “A” – but I will say “really?”. Usually, we can come to an agreement on the grade they deserve.
Occasionally, I will get a student that doesn’t want to talk about physics. The student will admit that they have no clue how to do any of the physics problems, but still claim he/she deserves to get a higher grade. Really, for these cases, the student is stuck in this model of grade as a reward.