The Maroon

Are the grades up yet?

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Julia Racine

Julia Racine

Julia Racine


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By: Julia Racine

Biology Junior

[email protected]

It’s a common story: a student waits for her professor to give back a graded assignment wanting to use the feedback to prepare for an upcoming exam. She is studying Sunday night the best that she can, and the exam is Monday morning. She checks Blackboard: no new grades have appeared.

Fast forward to midterm grades being posted: she sees a grade that is much lower than anticipated, because the grade she was initially waiting for showed that she really misunderstood crucial information that she thought she had down. The feedback she needed to improve her studies for the midterm exam, feedback she had been told to expect, was not available to her; because of this, an additional grade turned out to be lower than it would have if she had known to make that improvement.

It could be argued that the student should study hard despite the grades she got in the past, and that not getting an assignment back is no excuse for doing poorly on a later assignment. I am here to say that while students should strive to know and understand as much as they can (that is ultimately why we came to an institution of higher learning, after all), feedback is crucial to education and professors who care about their students’ success will care about providing feedback in a manner that fosters such student success.

Firstly, it is simply a good professional habit to pay attention to deadlines, even if they are soft ones.

In situations like these, I often here other students say things like, “if I have to pay attention to this paper’s due date, then he should have to pay attention to giving us back our papers when he says he will.”

This is a bit harsh; professors do a lot of work for a lot of things, and grading with quality feedback takes time. It is when professors make claims and do not stick to them, when professors report back to their classes that they “haven’t even started looking at those yet,” that they cross the line into unprofessionalism and even betray the trust of their students.

Aside from being professional, professors should care about providing feedback because the experience-feedback loop is what contributes most to the learning process.

As a Biology major, the scientific method infiltrates my life, and is a fantastic example of this loop. The way it works is this: a scientist notices something and asks a question about it. To answer that question, she tests what she believes to be the answer, and the results either confirm the answer she predicted, or reject it. From there, she researches into what her results mean, and asks another question.

This cycle is what allows science as we know it to understand the world, and the same cycle allows students to understand the concepts presented to them in their classes. Students must attempt to answer the question, test their answer, and use the results to ask more questions and to develop a fuller understanding.

Is this not what learning really is?

While we can read as many books as we can stand, practice our skills for as long as we have enough problems, and review our notes until we know them by heart, it is testing our understanding that allows us to grow in it.

We desperately need our professors to help us in growing our understanding.

Lastly, I would like to thank the professors who take the time to give quality feedback to their students.

To be clear, it is not a short amount of time between the due date and the grade return that makes the difference (though that is appreciated), but a timing of the grade return that makes room for progress. As students, we are grateful to the professors that give us the tools to move forward in constructive ways, and we would take waiting for quality feedback long before instantaneously receiving set of slashes and checkmarks.

Here’s to the professors who care, and show that they care in this way. I hope that the others soon follow their example.

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Are the grades up yet?