Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Does Effort Equal Achievement?

Here's a great piece from the NY Times about grades and grading these days. One student puts it this way:

"“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”"

At least one commentator suggests that the focus needs to be on capturing the students' interest so that they have in intrinsic motivation to do the work rather than the extrinsic one of grades. But that can be especially hard to achieve in a required class. I'm thinking about these issues right now as I am currently serving on a curriculum review committee charged especially with looking at our first year curriculum, which is where grading complaints are, I think, especially prevalent.

Read the whole thing here: Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes -


  1. This is complicated indeed. An "A" should be connected to quality, of course.

    Yet although some professors use "C" to indicate acceptable work, various outside evaluators do not always "read" that grade positively (for example, a deserving student might not qualify for a grade-based scholarship, even though he/she successfully completed the professor's requirements). This is especially unfair if the professor in question did not make expectations clear in advance (OR if the prof only gives "A" grades when a student does something over the top or unexpected...and yes, there are profs who grade this way).

    In my humble opinion, it only seems fair to distribute criteria for an "A" so that all students can aim for the highest grade.

  2. I agree that As need to be achievable. But they do not reflect simply fulfilling the requirements. There's got to be a middle ground. (My grade book is littered with Bs.)

  3. How many times have I seen a sentence like "if your maximum effort can only be seen as ___ in a teacher's mind..." and thought well, maybe if it could be seen anywhere else, we could say we're grading you on some objective criteria. But when you phrase it that awkwardly, it's clear that you haven't learned to write well yet, at the very least.

  4. Libby, I completely agree! I meant make the criteria for assignments reflect the highest possible standards (i.e., here's what an A paper requires).

  5. Marzano "Classroom Instruction That Works" chapter 4...please read it.