Sunday, May 14, 2006

It's the End Of The Semester, So Let the Begging Begin!

It's the end of the semester at Unknown University, so it's time for the begging and bargaining to begin!

Now that students have handed in all their assignments and taken their exams (with the exception of one onWednesday), they now switch to bargaining and begging mode. I used run a pool on how many emails we'd get telling us "but I really need to pass this class to graduate" (I get about three a semester, which is a bit on the low side).

In the last few years, I've become much more proactive in getting the message out.
To forestall the after-the-fact bargaining, I've started stressing the "no bargaining" rule from the first day of class, and have even included it in my syllabus. I tell them they would be rightly upset if I were to lower their grade "because they didn't need a such a high grade". SO, why should they be given a higher grade if they "do need it"?

To further reinforce the point, I announce before the first assignment is due that it is collected in the first 5 minutes of class and that it won't be accepted late. Someone invariably comes in 10 minutes after the start of class, and I accept the assignment with a comment that I'll be happy to correct it, but that thy receive a grade of zero on the assignment. I then remind them that they will be allowed to drop one or more of their assignment grades before I calculate the take-home assignment portion of their grade.

So, being seen as a bit of a stickler early on has its advantages.

The hardest cases are when the student's grade is near the cutoff (e.g. they have a final grade of 89 when the cutoff for an "A" is 90). To deal with this, I've changed the scale on which they're graded from 100 too 500 points. For example, in my Managerial Finance class, I give 4 exams (worth 100 points each) and a series of assignments and quizzes (the quiz assignment grade also counts for 100 points). So, the student needs 450 for an "A", 400 for a "B" and so on.
The difference is amazing - far fewer students argue over a 5 point difference (out of 500 points) that would over a 1 point difference out of a hundred.

Of course, the easiest thing is not to answer email for a week after the grades are in. But that would be wrong.

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