Common Myths - Re: Grades in College (page 3)
Now that College Parents of America is gaining wider awareness among the public and greater acceptance in the higher education community, many authors of college-related books are starting to send their work my way, hoping that we will choose to publicize these titles to those of you who receive my column.
We give all of these tomes at least a quick once-over, and most of them a closer read. Sometimes, we then choose to mention a particular work on this site.
This article highlights at least a portion of a book that recently caught our eye, entitled Professors' Guide to Getting Good Grades in College, co-authored by Lynn F. Jacobs, Ph.D,, and Jeremy S. Hyman, M.A. Dr. Jacobs is associate professor of art history at the University of Arkansas and Mr. Hyman is a former university teacher and manager of the Professors' Guide project.
The chapter that grabbed our attention, especially during this mid-fall-semester season, is called "Common Myths about Grades in College." After reading these myths, and how they are dispelled by Dr. Jacobs and Mr. Hyman, we think that they apply to high school grading, too. Here they are, with a bit of College Parents of America president James A. Boyle’s commentary thrown in. And peripheral credit to David Letterman, as this list contains the usual ten items, organized in the potential "voice" of your child, beginning with:
MYTH #1: "It's Bad to Be a Grade-Grubber"
The bottom line here is that grades, as Jacobs and Hyman put it, are the "currency of college. Just as pro athletes want to achieve good stats, and employees crave a positive performance review, so too should students aim to do their best, and they shouldn't be embarrassed about being called a nerd or a geek because they get good grades.
MYTH #2: "Why Try to Get Good Grades? All I Need is That Piece of Paper?"
The piece of paper, of course, is a diploma, which is important to achieve in order to be able fill that portion of a job or graduate school application. Increasingly, however, employers and grad schools are looking closely at the achievements of potential students, not just proof that they have done the bare minimum to graduate.
MYTH #3: "College? This is Going to Be a Cakewalk"
Jacobs and Hyman here make a compelling case that is based on some straightforward math. As they write, "Most of the students who go on from high school to college are in the top percentage of their high school class." Simple logic tells you that not everybody can be in the top percentage of a college class, so some portion of students will slide down the grading scale.
MYTH #4: "E is for Effort"
We're all familiar with middle school or high school classes that reward a student simply for turning in all homework, attending and participating in classes, and otherwise making one's presence known to the extent that a teacher comes to believe: "Wow, he/she is really trying," and rewards the student accordingly. That doesn't happen in college.
MYTH #5: "A is for Attendance"
This point is somewhat akin to the one above, but as Jacobs and Hyman put it: "however valuable attendance may be, it's simply not the case that attendance will net you a good grade in college course." Just as we've all had bosses who say, "I don't care how you do it, just get it done well," so too do most professors only care about the end product.
MYTH #6: "If Only I Kiss Up Enough..."
Many professors grade tests and submissions blindly and many others have no idea who is in their class anyway. So the reality is that only in the smallest seminar type of classes is it possible for a student to gain the type of reputation that could actually help their grade. Some teachers will make clear that participation is important and sometimes even a gradable component, but unless delineated that way, the student should assume that the work product submitted will form the grade, period.
MYTH #7: "Grades are 100 Percent Subjective..."
Here, Jacobs and Hyman tend to get their dander up a bit, making the point that grading is "a system, nut just an opinion." They explain that students - and their parents - want to assume that grades are arbitrary. They go on to nearly scream off the page that students - and their parents - are wrong, and that, in fact, they are judging students' work against certain standards. The $64,000 question, of course, is how to unlock the mysteries of the "system" to one's advantage.
MYTH #8: "I'll Never Get Good Grades. I'm Just Not a Good Student"
Boy, that sounds defeatist, doesn't it? All of us have our doubts and fears and even the bravest of college students are no different. Jacobs and Hyman here tell students: "The fact that you have been admitted to college shows that the college also believes that you can do well." It's probably good to remind your child of that point every once in a while.
MYTH #9: "The Professor Could Care Less What Grade I Get"
To me, this is one of those sentences that sound plausible on its face, yet if one sits back to think about it, then it makes absolutely no sense. After all, as Jacobs and Hyman write, "A bad grade is a sign that the professor has not succeeded in teaching that student." Stretched to its logical conclusion, don't you agree that, if everyone in a certain class failed, the professor would not only feel bad but probably also be judged as unable to teach? So clearly, professors want their students to do well, not only for the sake of the students but, as Jacobs and Hyman admit, "for the sake of their own egos."
and, drum roll please...
MYTH #10: "The Professor Will Tell Me All I Need to Know to Get an A"
This is in many ways counter-intuitive, and also countervailing to the previous point. Yes, professors want students to do well, but they also do not want give away their secrets of what that means. In fact, as Jacobs and Hyman suggest: "Some professors strongly believe that part of the learning experience is for students to figure out for themselves how to get good grades." So this one is a bit of a head-scratcher, but to me it is also good training for the vicissitudes of life. Some things are hard to explain, some bosses are hard to figure, sometimes these universal truths are discovered in the context of a college course and what may be a frustrating short-term issue turns into a valuable, life-long lesson.
We hope that this information has been helpful to you and your child.
Reprinted with the permission of College Parents of America. © 2007 CollegeParents.org
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