I took an economics class during my first semester at Temple that only consisted of three homework assignments, a midterm and a final exam. Throughout the semester, I remember my classmates and myself anxiously waiting to find out how we did on each assignment — but the professor kept us all in suspense, with a lengthy waiting time between each grade.
Many students have experienced a class like this at one point in their academic careers. Professors give students specific deadlines for assignments, but often don’t hold themselves to any sort of timeline for posting grades or returning assignments.
“There’s usually at least one class every semester,” said Daniel Latorre, a senior computer engineering student. “It gives me no perspective on how the grading scheme is in the class. … It’s not apparent whether I’m failing or passing.”
“For my [management information systems] class, I’ve been waiting on my assignment, and I just noticed that professors like to take their time with submitting assignments,” said Rimaaz Wali, a sophomore marketing major. “And that can be irritating just because I’d like to know my grades sooner than later.”
Professors should hold themselves accountable for grading in a timely manner, and they should actively communicate with their students about their progress in the course. Students deserve to know how they’re doing in a class, and professors should provide this information through timely grades.
Temple has a policy that grades must be entered within 48 hours after the last day of final exams. But other than midterm progress ratings, “there aren’t any other grading deadlines professors have to meet” over the course of a semester, said Annette McMenamin Bakley, the senior vice dean of undergraduate affairs in the College of Liberal Arts.
But this doesn’t mean professors shouldn’t set deadlines for themselves during the semester.
Cory Ng, an assistant accounting professor, said he makes an effort to return exams in about a week, but projects may take longer to grade.
“I prioritize returning grades to students in a timely fashion,” Ng said. “I understand that students desire timely feedback.”
Some students who I spoke with agreed that a week or two is a reasonable turnaround time for professors to grade completed assignments.
It’s especially important that grades are posted by the end of the class withdrawal period, right around the midpoint of the semester.
“I would say the biggest reason for students to have timely feedback is so that they can make a well-informed decision on whether they need to withdraw or not from the course,” said Rob O’Malley, a College of Education academic adviser.
I understand that some professors teach multiple classes each semester, but students also have to balance multiple classes and assignments. Many of us also have extracurricular activities, jobs and internships.
We need to know if we should be altering our schedules to invest more studying time in a class to improve or if we should withdraw from the class altogether.
Rob Crawford, a senior film major, said without regular grades, it’s hard for him to know whether he’s meeting his professor’s expectations — like in his film history class this semester.
“We haven’t gotten a grade yet,” Crawford said. “We’ve had probably three or four [assignments], just haven’t gotten a grade on them.”
If students are concerned about receiving their grades, O’Malley suggests they speak to their professors outside of class.
“We advise for them to reach out directly with the professor, have a one-on-one conversation, be very direct about their concerns regarding their grades and seeing if they can get specific feedback,” O’Malley said.
Still, professors should try to be timely in posting grades so this meetup isn’t necessary in the first place. And if they’re going to take a little longer to return grades, professors should communicate that to their students.
Ultimately, timeliness and communication from both professors and students creates a positive classroom environment where everyone can make the best of their time together.
Jensen Toussaint can be reached at email@example.com.