Children are taught while growing up that going to school means striving to earn good grades. As an adult, especially a new online student, grades are often the initial focus because it is a tangible result. Whether or not their instructor provides written feedback, grades are perceived as the ultimate outcome. When an instructor does provide feedback it may or may not change that perception, if they believe that their hard work and effort should equal a “good” grade. When students don’t believe they are getting the grade they deserve it can be easy for them to become discouraged and disconnect from the class, especially if they have not establish rapport with their instructor.
The challenge for maintaining this type of mindset is that it can become a constant struggle for students. Grading often varies by instructor and the requirements or expectations for written work can be different from course to course. In addition, students may or may not have realistic expectations about the grading process and the criteria or components that make up a grade. For example, if the student has earned a “B” grade they may equate that with either not doing their best or believe that their instructor has not properly assessed their work or performance. It becomes important then to change the point of focus and develop a new perspective about grades.
In order to demystify the grading process it is important to consider the origins of a grade. For most assignments and learning activities in an online class there are specific criteria that establish what is expected for both the content and mechanics of the activity. As a general rule points are earned for an assignment or activity, which means instructors are not giving grades but rather calculating points. While there are many exceptions to this rule this is a general standard for online classes. Some instructors will utilize a rubric to show how points were earned and this breakdown of the points earned helps to ensure some level of uniformity when feedback is provided.
Having Control of Grades
If students view assignments and other activities from this perspective it means that they have direct control over the final outcome based upon their performance for that activity. But keep in mind that this is a measurement of something that has occurred at one point in time during that online class. An assignment is given to assess a student’s progress in meeting the learning objectives, a test measures knowledge acquired and recalled, and a class discussion allow students to collaborate. All of these activities allow students to demonstrate specific skill sets that can change over time.
A New Focus
Instead of being concerned about a potential grade students can channel this energy into the learning process and focus on being prepared for activities such as a discussion or assignment. What’s more important than grades is the capacity to learn and the effort put into their classroom performance. This means finding inspiration in the process and enjoying what can be learned instead of worrying about trying to achieve a certain outcome. For example, statements such as “I need to earn a certain grade” or “I should earn a certain grade” can be replaced with “I am” statements. A better phrase for students would be “I am doing my very best and learning along the way” to set a positive tone for their involvement in class.
Effort and Engagement
It is certainly possible that grades can reflect effort and engagement in the class. If a student is putting little effort into their studies then they are likely to not earn as many points and therefore receive a lower grade. But those grades are not an indicator of who a student is rather it is a measure of progress that can always be improved upon. If grades are on the decline then this should be a warning indicator that there is an adjustment that needs to be made. This is the time when students should talk to their instructor and discuss their progress in class so they can learn how to improve and obtain a better result the next time.
Purpose of Learning
If a student wants to use grades as a benchmark that is understandable; however, the ultimate purpose for taking a class is to learn or acquire new knowledge and develop academic skill sets. Allow grades to inform rather than distract or discourage your progress. Maintain ongoing contact with your instructor and carefully review all of the feedback provided so that you are aware of the method for determining your grades. Plan ahead and be prepared for your assignments, along with all requirements of the course, and you’ll find that this shift in your perspective will help you improve and as a consequence so will your grades.
About the Author:
Dr. Bruce Johnson has had a life-long love of learning and throughout his entire career he has been involved in many forms of adult education through his work as an educator, trainer, career coach, and mentor. Dr. J has completed a Master in Business Administration (MBA) and a PhD in Education, with a specialization in Post-secondary and Adult Education.
Presently Dr. J works as an online college professor, faculty developmental workshop facilitator, faculty mentor, faculty peer reviewer, and professional writer. Dr. J’s first eBook, APPRECIATIVE ANDRAGOGY: TAKING the Distance Out of Distance Learning, is available for sale now in paperback, and also available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo devices. Learn more by visiting http://www.affordablequalitywriting.com
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