Earning a grade

Last week ago, Payton Walker, a senior broadcast star at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism, interviewed me about grade inflation. Her interview was for Carolina Week, a student-produced news program about UNC.

More specifically, her topic was about the tension faculty members might feel between trying to control grade inflation AND wanting to get a positive course evaluation from students. I suggested that I wasn’t the one who could give her the best answers, given that I am an adjunct. But she had been having difficulty getting full-time faculty members to speak on camera. Apparently, faculty without tenure are nervous about it, and faculty with tenure aren’t worried about course evaluations. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (She ended up finding some others.)

I don’t know a single teacher who enjoys grading. To grade effectively, you must give the student ample feedback on their writing. It’s time-consuming and subjective, to a certain extent. For me, when a student writes poorly, I think that I’ve failed them.

I want to be liked by students. I want to be considered a good teacher. But I teach at one of the best journalism schools in the country, and I want to uphold its tradition of excellence.

In my first semester, Professor Chris Roush taught me that students aren’t given grades, they earn them. And I knew from years of management in a newsroom that if you set high standards, people will try to meet them.

Students will benefit more in the long term if they have to work to get a good grade. They appreciate the teachers who are tough but fair, and who put in the time giving constructive feedback. I know this because I’ve heard them talk about teachers and courses that are easy. I don’t want them to talk about me that way.

Here is the Carolina Week broadcast. The discussion about grade inflation starts at the 11:44 mark.

2 thoughts on “Earning a grade

  1. Most employers don’t care about the GPA of a student applying for a job or internship. They want people with experience working in a team and the ability to identify problems and solve them. We need to do a better job telling our students that.

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