Students say professors grade fairly, individually
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 11:04
Students are given many grades throughout their academic career, but it’s up to the teachers to fairly determine those.
Elaine Wilson-Sharp, a senior English major from St. George, said that has not always been the case in some of her classes.
“I used to go to Snow College, and there was a professor there that was horrible,” Wilson-Sharp said.
Wilson-Sharp said the grading scale may have been presented fairly to students early on in the semester, but the professor didn’t stick to the standard he had set. The grades given didn’t seem to line up objectively.
“The good grades were basically given out to the favorites, no matter how bad their performance in class,” Wilson-Sharp said. “To those who studied and did the work, it wasn’t fair.”
Don Hinton, dean of the school of arts and letters, said teachers have the right to create their own grading scale, but instructors are evaluated on the effectiveness of their criteria early on in their academic career.
“During the semester, things may come up,” Hinton said. “As long as professors clearly communicate any changes to the class, then it’s their jurisdiction. They cannot just change this arbitrarily.”
Hinton said concerns are typically raised when the grading scale is not laid out properly or if it is changed during the course of the semester.
“There was an issue once with a professor who outlined what students needed to do in order to earn an ‘A’ grade,” Hinton said. “And then too many of the students met these terms, and they decided to shift to grading on a curve. A lot of the students were upset and rightly so.”
Even though Wilson-Sharp had her moment of being upset, she was thankful it’s never occurred here.
“I’ve never encountered any issues at DSC,” Wilson-Sharp said. “The majority of the professors here are both fair and helpful.”
Hinton said if any issues do occur, they are typically caught early on through course evaluations.
“When a professor first starts out at Dixie, they have these evaluations every semester,” Hinton said. “We do a syllabus evaluation and check to see if these grading criteria are identified, adequately explained and how the final grade will be computed.”
Hinton said issues or challenges don’t come up very often, but when they did, individuals were understanding and willing to make a change.
“If any staff member refused, they most likely would not be able to stay on at the college,” Hinton said.
Rick Rodrick, an associate professor of communication, said sticking to a standard format for all his classes makes grading easier.
“There are times I have to change the way things work,” Rodrick said. “It just doesn’t make sense not to respond to what’s going on in the class. But if everything is on a scale there is consistency.”
Rodrick said since this is his first year at Dixie State College, he noticed some of his students were struggling in his class. Since everyone was getting used to the new environment, he decided to add some bonus points to their first exam.
“I recognize that even when the very best students are struggling somewhat then it’s reasonable for me to give them a little bit of the bump,” Rodrick said. “But this is based on my perception after 30 years of teaching.”
Rodrick also said class sizes make grading on a curve nearly impossible at DSC.
“To have an accurate curve representation, there would need to be at least 100 students,” Rodrick said. “At Dixie, most classes aren’t even half that size.”
AmiJo Comeford, an associate professor of English, doesn’t grade on a curve either.
“If a student earns the grade and does the work, then that is the grade the student will get, regardless of how many others in the class achieve at the same level,” Comeford said. “Often, a curve naturally forms based on the performance of students in the class, but I do not deliberately create a curve in my grading policies.
Comeford also said she doesn’t object to the use of participation points within classes, but only for certain content that applies. In fact, she said she uses them in the majority of her classes for things like peer writing workshops, group discussions and presentations.
“If students are not in class for these materials, then they are not able to learn the content and achieve the objectives,” Comeford said. “So I do what I can to encourage students to be part of that process. If, for example, students do not come on peer-workshop days, they are hurting the individuals who are their partners in the process. “
Wilson-Sharp also said the same rights are given to students: Since each student has the right to work the way that best suits him or her, it makes sense for professors to be given the same courtesy. As long as the work meets certain guidelines, then it can be somewhat objective.
“I do believe this is a fair practice,” Wilson-Sharp said. “And that’s because each professor has their own unique methods of teaching. They aren’t mandated in any way for that.”