Written by Dylan Doyle, contributing writer
University professors: worry not, I come in peace. However, we need to have an honest chat about grading and class difficulty.
Let’s get the ugly truth out of the way first: some classes are too hard and others too easy. This isn’t always your fault. After all, most of you are paid an insubstantial amount of money to teach complex and nuanced material, often to a group of already overworked students.
It’s a tough job, and we salute you for it.
But even so, I have friends (mostly science majors, admittedly) which some instructors seem to believe are superhuman. For example, one such friend spends nearly endless hours each week studying and seeking help outside of class, only to receive a grade lower than the last.
This wouldn’t be a problem if she were the only one. In fact, she scores right around the class average most of the time. But if your class average for an exam is below a D, the problem might not be your students. The problem just might be the exams or classroom techniques.
There is definitely something maddening about a professor berating a class, of which a majority have failed an assignment, and offering nothing but “it’s supposed to be hard! The MCAT won’t be a cakewalk!”
Some classes are harder than others and some material is outright complex. Even so, the cardinal sin of a college professor is to disregard the effort students are putting into their work.
If you have a classroom of students bombing exam after exam, it may be time to reconsider the approach to the material. Or maybe it’s because students feel as if they don’t have many places to turn to when they’re struggling.
Murray State University tries to avoid this issue by requiring professors to maintain physical office hours, but this doesn’t solve every problem.
Reminding students to seek assistance, encouraging them to create peer groups within classes to aid in studying and utilizing the gradebook function in Canvas so students can accurately track their progress are easy ways to help everyone out. Not every student will take advantage of these opportunities, and that’s solely their decision.
College is challenging, and it is supposed to be. However, it should not be difficult for the sake of seeing students struggle.
I am not saying every class should be easy or every student should get an A; that’s the quitters way out. I also understand that school is (at least in part) about separating wheat from chaff. It can be a bit depressing knowing exactly how many Murray State students don’t make it to graduation, though.
But if you are not careful swinging that scythe, you can chop down all the wheat with the chaff and be left with a barren field and nothing to harvest.
Just keep in mind students expect a challenge, but not unrealistic expectations which hinder their education and growth.