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“I worked so hard on this”

March 25, 2010

I regularly hear from students who are flabbergasted that their grade on some assignment doesn’t reflect the effort they put in. So I have to say this:

Your grade is not a reflection of the effort you put in—it is a reflection of your mastery of the subject matter.

I hate having to say this.

I hate it first because I don’t think I should have to say it. Who’s been teaching them effort is more important than quality?

I hate it second because if it comes to the point where this has to be stated out loud, there’s probably nothing to be done about it—if the student is working that hard and cannot master the material, it is unlikely that additional tutoring from myself will trigger enlightenment.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Beelzebub permalink
    March 25, 2010 2:32 pm

    You know what always irritated me as a student? When I could turn in a half-assed paper too late and still get a decent grade on it. But on one of those very papers I got docked points because I cited the Richard Linklater film “Slacker” as an instance of a mentioning of Krishna in popular culture (like I said, half-assed) and the teacher thought I meant the 2002 Dewey Nicks directed film “Slackers,” meaning that if I hadn’t been so obscure if my choice of film, I would have gotten an even better grade on the paper!

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    March 25, 2010 4:40 pm

    Did you complain to the prof? I’d give you credit back for that …

  3. Beelzebub permalink
    March 25, 2010 5:10 pm

    No, I felt pretty bad about the paper overall, because it was late and I really hadn’t put as much effort into it as I should have, so I was just happy when I found out I got a B or something like that. It was a real shock.

  4. Classical Liberal permalink
    March 25, 2010 8:55 pm

    Ditto Beelzebub. I slacked off in almost every single class I had in undergrad, and graduated with honors. And two majors. Et cetera. Though usually I didn’t feel guilty about it, which angered many of my peers.
    But to address the post, the reason students think effort should matter in their grades is because we tell them that in public (and maybe private?) schools. We allow students to matriculate even though they’re 14 and can’t read; we tell them, even in high school, that they can grow up to be whatever they want if they work hard enough; we let them ‘earn’ extra credit by attending school plays or filling out crossword puzzles because we don’t want to hurt their feelings by giving them a well-deserved C. (And I’m not making up these examples. I actually took A- or B+ grades in HS rather than stoop to the level of worthless busywork extra credit assignments. But I also didn’t do most of my busywork homework. One teacher just stopped assigning it to me, because I could learn without it. Great teacher.)
    Anyway, just remember that you’re really doing these kids a favor by telling them that quality is what matters. Better late than never.

  5. March 26, 2010 8:07 pm

    I do badly on all my papers and I don’t put effort in. I seem to be the only one the system is working for.

  6. Beelzebub permalink
    March 28, 2010 12:59 am

    You ever thought about what effect a meritocratic myth + the fact that college is considered to be “the way” to a middle class existence would have on higher education? I suppose this is it. This just occurred to me today.

  7. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    March 28, 2010 9:22 am

    Haha, I bet there’s something to that!

    Intelligence in theory is supposed to be apart of one’s merit, but that doesn’t very often appear in the rhetoric …

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