Last semester, I took a class in which the professor did not enter any grades into Canvas and never returned feedback for some of the papers we wrote. It was difficult to improve and to predict what my final grade would be without that communication from my professor. If students are not aware of their progress in a class, it becomes challenging to take the necessary steps to improve and succeed. The same way students have deadlines for assignments, professors should have deadlines for grading.
Economics senior Nicholas Rummel took a class two semesters ago in which only six assignments contributed toward the final grade — four were homework assignments spread throughout the semester, and two were papers.
“By the time I was turning in that final essay, I had zero grades in the grade book,” Rummel explained. “When I was trying to calculate what my grade was going to be in the class, I had no idea.” Rummel ultimately used his one-time-exception drop because of the “uncertainty of not having a tangible grade” as the semester was coming to an end. This could have been prevented had the professor communicated more effectively throughout the semester.
Mathematics lecturer Charles Mills believes that “if a student wants to know their grade, and has all of the information required, (then) they should take the initiative and compute it for themselves.” While it is laudable that Mills made sure his students had access to all their grades in a timely manner, he used Canvas for some assignments, Quest for others and kept a separate record of participation. Although grades were released promptly, students had to repeatedly recalculate them to know their current grade. It is vital for students to be able to login on one platform and see an accurately computed, up-to-date grade. Professors should be required to input all grades in a single place so that students track their progress.
Equally as important is returning grades and feedback on time. Assignment types vary between classes, so all professors cannot be held to the same grading timeline. Departments should implement a grading timeline for professors depending on the types of exams administered and the number of students in each class. Students must get prompt and sufficient feedback in time to improve for the next assignment.
It is hard to fix a problem if you do not know that it exists until it is too late. Students need to know how they are doing in a class while they still have enough time to make the necessary changes. A clear understanding of how the final grade will be calculated and what the expected quality of work looks like could help give students the reassurance that they will be able to succeed.
Professors need to be held to the standards to which they hold their students. If we are expected to put in effort and produce quality work by a given deadline, professors should be expected to give us quality feedback in a convenient and timely manner in return.
Dighe is a Plan II and neuroscience sophomore from Houston.