top of page

"I hope this finds you well..."

The last week of the semester is always full of chaos. Students are running around trying to calculate minimum passing scores, and faculty are regretting assigning holistic final exams instead of easily graded multiple-choice exams. It’s a time when most faculty are repeating the same jokes to one another about “another tough semester”, and students are huddled over their laptops on every inch of campus in their sweats.

Behind the scenes of these familiar end-of-semester tropes is an overlooked factor experienced by the same faculty who are negotiating deadline extensions, requests for GPA bumps, and adhering to university deadline. There is an emotional tax that faculty pay during this time. Many of us spend hours preparing lectures, content, and feedback in order to provide our students with the best possible class experience while also ensuring that they have learned the necessary material in a given content area. Many, many of these hours are on our personal time. 

However, each year without fail there is an influx of argumentative emails fighting for grades, asking to makeup work that was missed without excuse, or just generally lamenting the course when a grade appears to be less than expected. This barrage of emails takes a significant emotional toll during an already stressful time. Faculty do not set out to fail students, and when we are trying to hold a group of 30 or more students to the same standards, it becomes a herculean feat to navigate assessment in an equitable fashion.

Some (myself included) have moved in the direction of feedback-based assessment, rather than traditional grading schemes; a move known as “un-grading” (Susan Blum writes a great introduction to this concept here). My personal experience with this has been touch-and-go. While I seek to move away from a grade-centric syllabus, my students remain staunchly anchored in point values. Just this past month, I had to explain to a student that the window to receive an A in the class was 10 points, and it was unlikely for most students to receive all 100 points throughout the semester. I was confronted, at almost every turn, with students who were outraged for receiving less than the full point value for a particular assignment. There was also a consistent fear about what was expected, as though the rubrics and examples were not sufficient and my “OK” was required before moving forward with any assignment.

I would love to close this out with a resolution about how I have solved this, and tips or tricks on how to overcome these obstacles, but unfortunately, I have nothing. I think that we, as counselor educators, are positioned to do better than professors in other disciplines. We have the opportunity to teach with meaning and empathy and gentle reminders that points are a necessary evil and our utmost concern is preparing ethical and competent counselors. 

originally posted 1/27/20 by the American Counseling Association

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page