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Grades are Good for Students

–Guest column by Nicholas Aranda ’21

Cs & Ds get degrees—so goes the adage about college grades.  But most students carry with them deep anxiety, on-going anticipation, and determined dedication when it comes to grades, especially midterms.  Midterm grades provide students with an opportunity to reflect, revise, and adapt to the functions of academic life.  Knowing their midterm grade is a benefit to students, and not knowing their grade is certain to give any student cause for concern; however, some students are impacted more than others when grades are late, not posted, or rarely updated—these students, like first generation students and those on performance-based scholarships, depend on grade information to maintain good academic standing.

Around midterm week, I check my grades like clockwork.  Prior to midterms, checking my grades in Worldclass allows me crucial insight to gauge the levels of focus, energy, and dedication I need to allot to each of my courses.   However, when a professor fails to update Worldclass, or misses the deadline for posting midterm grades altogether, a looming anxiety sets in: I am unsure of my standing, my performance, where I need to improve, or what I am doing well.  In short, I am unsure how to navigate my combined schedule and divide my intellectual capital when a professor neglects to post grades.   

Even if professors post a midterm-grade in Webadvisor, if that professor does not routinely update the Worldclass gradebook, I am still unsure about how to interpret my grade.  A midterm grade of B or C can confuse students who can’t check daily grades, weekly assignments, and test/exam scores to better understand how that midterm grade was calculated.  Put another way, midterm or final grades are just as inscrutable and worrisome as non-posted grades if I don’t understand how to interpret my grade.

Like myself, many students rely on updated grades to determine how best to navigate and balance coursework, extracurriculars, student-involvement, family-life, jobs, and private concerns.  Faced with these challenges, first-year and first-generation students are more likely than their seasoned peers to have trouble deciding what to prioritize. This has a counter-intuitive effect on student wellness and student academic performance: anxiety about grades is unlikely to result in better academic performance, in fact—it’s likely to hinder it.

This should be a concern for professors also.  I am more likely to improve in-between assignments when I am able to make changes to my work based on faculty-posted grades.  Posted-grades allow me the power to ask questions, seek tips for improvement, and compare notes with my peers.  Keeping an accurate gradebook ensures that faculty are getting the most thoughtful and capable work from their students.

If professors maintain course gradebooks, students will be better able to divide their emotional labor, improve their academic performance, and focus their energies to navigate the college-experience successfully.

Need help with Worldclass Gradebook? Nicole Marcisz from ID&T has prepared this handy guide: D2L_Gradebook

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