Students and faculty have a different idea of what defines an average grade.
A recent study conducted by the University of California, Irvine discovered one-third of students said they expected to receive B’s for attending lectures. Forty percent said they expected to earn B’s for completing assignments. Temple students and professors generally say they agree.
“I think that if you efficiently do the minimum requirements for a course, you should earn nothing lower than a B,” said Brian Gibbs, a freshman business major. “If you’re one to go above and beyond and make the extra effort to earn an A, then you deserve that grade, but the minimum requirements should get you at least a B.”
Economics professor Andrew Buck said he notices students’ desires for good.
“It is not uncommon for students to believe that if they come to class, do homework and take tests they will receive a passing grade,” he said. “Over the years, there has been a small increase in this attitude.”
Buck said the average or default grade for doing the basics and coming to class should be a C, and he tries to grade, so the median grade in his class is a C+ or B-. In his classes, Buck’s grading system allows for many graded exercises for each student.
He said he believes it is a fair method of assessment because one assignment will not prove detrimental to their grades.
“In observing my own kids going through high school, they had many graded exercises throughout a marking period. The system that I use for [economics] 1102 eases the transition to college life, in which the students assume more responsibility for keeping on track and up-to-date with the material,” Buck said. “Usually there is no mystery as to why they did or did not do well.”
“The value of a letter grade, such as whether a B or a C represents average, is up to either professors, departments or schools,” said Carol Philips, the associate director of the Teaching and Learning Center. “At the Teaching and Learning Center, we assist faculty members with articulating their expectations for particular letter grades and including that information in both the syllabus and with assignments.”
Philips said when students are aware of what their professors expect, they are more likely to do well in class. She added that research indicates when students are aware of specific faculty expectations, they are more likely to perform well.
Temple students generally mirror the results of the study and generally say a B is an average grade.
Most students also say the effort they put into their classes should be taken into account.
Laura Caporizzo, a sophomore photography major, said if she does what she is supposed to do for a class, she deserves at least a B. If the minimum requirements are filled well, she deserves an A.
She said the grading policy in most of her classes considers C’s to be the average grades.
Amanda Concha, a senior linguistics major, said if a student attends all of the classes and completes the required work, they can fairly expect an A or B.
“You either do the work for the class or you don’t,” she said.
Many professors said they consider a C as an average grade. Students complain that a C is, by most standards, not good enough. Most graduate schools require at the very least a B-average and even “average” students are not satisfied with C’s.
“More important than the grade expectation disconnect between faculty and students is the disconnect between faculty and student expectations of what it means to be in college, from a personal responsibility standpoint and from the standpoint of prior preparation,” Buck said. “To generalize, students believe that college should be essentially no more intellectually challenging than their high school experience.”
He said the big difference between high school and college is the workload and assumption of the responsibility to learn outside the classroom.
“If there is a grade disconnect, it may be caused by the student misperception of what it means to be a college student,” Buck said.
There are exceptions to the generalization of what students and professors consider to be average.
“In real life, just showing up for work, sitting at your desk for eight hours, then going home isn’t going to get you that raise, bonus or promotion,” said Keith Colton, a sophomore international business and finance major. “Why should we promote that kind of attitude in college, where we are supposed to be preparing ourselves for the real world?”
He said he thinks students have entitlement issues and don’t deserve an A or B just because they attend class or do homework.
“Just because you pay to go to school doesn’t mean you deserve your diploma. If they gave diplomas to everyone who paid their tuition it would have zero meaning or worth,” Colton said. “It’s really unfortunate that students think they should be rewarded for doing what is already expected of them.”
Buck said he has taught plenty of students whom he does not perceive as having any entitlement issue.
“I have had many students that were more than adequately prepared in both basic skills and willingness to assume responsibility for their college education,” he said.
Gibbs said the way to close the gap is to keep an open dialogue.
“I think the relationship between students and professors should be very open about grading,” Gibbs said. “If you disagree, you should be able to voice your opinion without a problem. It shouldn’t be an awkward or closed subject.”
Valerie Rubinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.