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Asking a Professor about a Grade


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Hello all,

 

I need your advice on contacting a professor about a grade. Here's the situation:

 

During the spring semester, my professor told the class that if she was not able to grade our final papers in time before grades were due, she would give the students whose papers were ungraded an "incomplete" for the semester. Then, as soon as the papers were graded, she would update the grade. An "incomplete" didn't sound appealing to me, but she seemed fairly nonchalant about it.

 

Anyway, my paper ended up being one that she didn't have time to grade. This paper was submitted to her, both electronically and in hard copy, almost four months ago, and my grade is still listed as "incomplete." It's now into the fall semester, and I figure it's about time that my grade is changed, so I sent the professor a polite email, asking if she had had a chance to look at my paper. That was several days ago, and she hasn't responded. In my experience, if a professor doesn't respond within a few days, he or she probably isn't going to at all.

 

So, should I email her about it again? Should I track her down in her office? Should I talk to someone higher up in the department? I really don't want an "incomplete" to reflect badly on my work ethic, especially since the grade has nothing to do with my inability to finish the course, but rather the professor's inability to grade my work. At the same time, I don't want to ruffle any feathers and be considered a bothersome student.

 

What would you do?

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^^I would do all of those things. E-mail again, track her down during office hours, then go up the chain of command in the department if you can't get in touch with her or don't get a satisfactory answer. You will want to get on this ASAP, as some universities have automatic deadlines after which incompletes cannot be changed. 

 

I think it's pretty unethical for a professor to not finish grading by the time grades are due, by the way. An incomplete should be given on account of the student needing more time, not the professor. She should know her semester and her schedule well enough to not need more time. Yes, it's awful to spend the whole last week before grades are due reading student papers, but that's the life we've signed up for. Unless your papers were submitted very, very late because she granted you an extension with the expectation that you would take an incomplete, she is obligated to finish her grading. 

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So, should I email her about it again? Should I track her down in her office? Should I talk to someone higher up in the department? I really don't want an "incomplete" to reflect badly on my work ethic, especially since the grade has nothing to do with my inability to finish the course, but rather the professor's inability to grade my work. At the same time, I don't want to ruffle any feathers and be considered a bothersome student.

 

What would you do?

 

FWIW, in my program an incomplete is totally harmless and people can actually graduate with some incompletes in their transcript (three, I think). I hope it's the same at your school and that it's not really looked down upon. The most important thing you need to do now is find out if there is some deadline for getting the incomplete changed into a grade. If not, I'd rethink the urgency your post is conveying. You already have the incomplete; does it matter when it gets changes? How will it affect your life if it's changes this week as opposed to three or four weeks from now? Unless there is a real issue here, I would not press the issue as if it were urgent. Give your professor a few more days before you just assume she's never going to reply, and if you indeed don't hear back, just pop your head in her door and ask when you might expect your grade to change. If you need to submit a transcript for something, or if there is some requirement for completing all coursework soon or it's a prerequisite for something else you want to take, I would tell her that and ask for her help. Otherwise, you can afford to give it more time before you start "going up the chain of command" as was propose above. I'd actually advise you to avoid that for as long as possible because a low-priority cause is not worth upsetting a professor who may have a big impact on your future life and career.

 

Of course, if there is a fast-approaching deadline then matters are different - but I would still exhaust local sources before going above the professor's head - email again with a clear mention of the deadline, then stop by her office for a chat, then consider asking the DGS what happens if your grade isn't changed even though you did all the work and should not suffer any consequences through someone else's fault (because really giving a student an incomplete because the professor couldn't finish grading should not be acceptable practice at all!). From what you wrote this should be not only your problem but other students' in the class as well, so it may be good to organize them all and talk to your department's grad student representative for help in sorting this out for everyone.

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Thank you both for your advice! I guess I'm just impatient...

 

I looked into my school's policies regarding incompletes. A student may have an incomplete for one year before it is automatically changed to an "F." So it appears I have many more months of waiting...

 

My main worry is that the professor completely forgot about my paper. Like fuzzylogician said, I'll wait a bit longer and then pop into her office.

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As with said posts above, give it a bit of time then pop into her office and ask.

 

On the practical side keep in mind, if you egg her to give you a grade she will indeed give you a grade, best that egging be seem under polite and courteous terms.

 

That said I do think its sloppy conduct on her part.

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