# Want to KILL my Professor

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Rawr. I'll start off by saying I know this guy pretty well at this point. This is the third time I've been his TA, and last time I was kind of there for multiple classes. As in, I only officially did the grading for one, but when he was going to be away for a week, he asked me to cover and give a presentation on properly formatting papers to another class, I accompanied his two classes that I wasn't officially TAing on a field trip, and I was heavily involved in keeping tabs on his research assistant. Generally, we've worked well together, with bouts of some irritating behavior. In all this time, his forum discussion assignments have been out of 10. And he's never said anything about skewing the grading system in any way. So for as long as I've worked with him, it's been 9-10=A, 8.5=B+, 8=B, and so on. Just as you would expect. Multiply the grade by 10 and you get the score out of 100%. Note that this particular class is a 5 week winter semester class, so grading has to be done quickly.

With this in mind, I've already graded the first forum discussion for this class with this system in mind. I gave 10's to students whose work was truly exceptional. 9-9.5 to students whose work was very good, but not quite on par with the best. 8.5 to students on the high end of B work, 8 to those on the low end, and so on. I entered those grades days ago. Students have seen them.

Well, today, I get an e-mail. Even though the class is basically done and the first round of grades have already been posted for students to view, he's changed his grading scale. 9-10 is still an A. But now 8-8.5 is a B+. Still, fine. I'm not going to quibble over half a letter grade. But where it gets really frustrating is now 6-7.5 is a B. 5 is a C+, 4 is a C, 2-3 is a D, and 0-1 is an F. This is drastically different than what I'd had in mind while grading the first assignments. There was a student I have a 6 to, which is probably the lowest grade I've ever given to a complete assignment. Usually, if all parts of the assignment have been submitted, I give at least a 7.5, or what in my mind has been a C. But this was truly one of the worst assignments I've ever seen, so I gave what I thought as a 60%, which would have been an F.

But now that's apparently a B.

But what frustrates me even more than the apparent adjustment of grades I already entered is now grades may be markedly lower than they were on the first assignment. Say for example the student who earned a 6 made significant improvements on the second forum discussion, but the work only merits a C. Am I supposed to give a lower grade even if the work is actually better, because the grading scale has changed somewhere in between the assignments being graded? What about the students I have 8's to because they were on the lower end of the B range? Do I give them a lower number grade even if they've maintained the same level of quality from one assignment to another? How do I justify that?

I'm just so frustrated. If I'd known that this time around he was going to change the grading scale, I would have graded the last assignments much differently. But not only did he wait until I'd finished grading, but he left it until after all the grades were posted to notify me. So now I can't change it, because if a student notices that what was an 8 has now dropped to a 6.5 or 7 or, worse, what was a 6 is now a 1 or 2, they'll be out for blood before I even have time to explain. I feel like no matter what I do, if I suddenly follow this scale I'll have a mutiny on my hands with my inbox exploding with angry emails. But, if I ignore it and follow the original scale out of a healthy sense of self-preservation, I'll get an e-mail from the professor wanting to know why I'm suddenly giving everyone what works out to be higher grades than I have in the past.

I planned to get a good chunk of grading done today, but now I'm frustrated and confused and, frankly, feeling a little stuck.

Has anyone else here experienced a professor drastically changing the grade scale after the class was underway and assignments had already been graded?

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You want to kill someone for doing something that confused and inconvenienced you? Can we just pause and note that that's not okay?

Changing the grading scheme mid-way through the course shouldn't be ok. At most institutions I know, that wouldn't be allowed. More to the point, why don't you schedule a meeting with the professor to ask what prompted the change, and how he wants you do deal with precisely the questions you bring up here? What happens when someone doing as well as before gets lower grades on an assignment, and someone who has even improved still gets what looks like a lower grade? Maybe the solution is to have the professor explicitly discuss this change in his policies in class. Either way, it should be his responsibility to address this problem, and your job is to do what he tell you.

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37 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

You want to kill someone for doing something that confused and inconvenienced you? Can we just pause and note that that's not okay?

Changing the grading scheme mid-way through the course shouldn't be ok. At most institutions I know, that wouldn't be allowed. More to the point, why don't you schedule a meeting with the professor to ask what prompted the change, and how he wants you do deal with precisely the questions you bring up here? What happens when someone doing as well as before gets lower grades on an assignment, and someone who has even improved still gets what looks like a lower grade? Maybe the solution is to have the professor explicitly discuss this change in his policies in class. Either way, it should be his responsibility to address this problem, and your job is to do what he tell you.

Perhaps wanting to kill is a hyperbole. But I'm just incredibly frustrated. I emailed him, but the trouble is he teaches exclusively online, and he isn't teaching at all during the regular spring semester, so he's literally never around to meet with in person.

He also basically doesn't communicate with the students at all. Even if they email him a simple, easy to answer question, he forwards it to me. If there's an issue like a medical need for an extension, he tells me what he wants to do, but then passes the task of communicating his decisions on to me. So since students hear almost exclusively from me, I know that I'm going to get the brunt of whatever anger ensues over this.

Given his policy of avoiding direct communication with students whenever possible, I kind of doubt he's going to address it himself.

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3 minutes ago, angesradieux said:

Perhaps wanting to kill is a hyperbole. But I'm just incredibly frustrated. I emailed him, but the trouble is he teaches exclusively online, and he isn't teaching at all during the regular spring semester, so he's literally never around to meet with in person.

He also basically doesn't communicate with the students at all. Even if they email him a simple, easy to answer question, he forwards it to me. If there's an issue like a medical need for an extension, he tells me what he wants to do, but then passes the task of communicating his decisions on to me. So since students hear almost exclusively from me, I know that I'm going to get the brunt of whatever anger ensues over this.

Given his policy of avoiding direct communication with students whenever possible, I kind of doubt he's going to address it himself.

Probably good then if you intend on being a professor at a university, because you will get angry students and you will need to deal with them.

I'm also still confused on what the issue is, give the student the grade they earned.  It shouldn't matter if the original grade said 6 or 8 or 2 on the assignment, things scale and curve (up and down) all the time.

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6 minutes ago, .letmeinplz// said:

Probably good then if you intend on being a professor at a university, because you will get angry students and you will need to deal with them.

I'm also still confused on what the issue is, give the student the grade they earned.  It shouldn't matter if the original grade said 6 or 8 or 2 on the assignment, things scale and curve (up and down) all the time.

The issue is that the scale has changed in between assignment. So on the first assignment, if a student earned a C, I gave a 7. Now he's saying that if a student is doing C work, give them a 4. So essentially, I assigned a B on the first assignment without realizing it, and now if the work is of comparable quality, he wants me to give a lower score.  So now students will be receiving markedly lower grades for comparable or in some cases improved work. Based on what he's said, he isn't dropping the previous grades to match the new grading system, so all grades are now inflated and, aside from those students earning an A or B+, everyone is going to see a sharp decrease from the first assignment to this one.

Basically, in the case of the student who received a 6, she now has a B that she didn't earn. Using the new scale, even if the work has improved, it may only merit a C, which is now a 4. So either I give her a grade she hasn't earned, which the professor will question, or despite improvement from one assignment to the next, her grade will fall.

It's an issue of grades having become incredibly inconsistent and on the second assignment apparently unjustifiable.

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Announcement: New grading policy!

[Instructor] has decided to institute a new grading policy. [specifics]. This applies starting with the next assignment. Notice that this means that the numerical grade you will get might change, but the equivalent letter grade will remain the same. Notice additionally that since we are not retro-actively changing the grades on your first assignment, this will lead to some bump in everyone's final grades.

I have never in my life had a student complain about getting a higher grade than they deserved.

For any other questions, you refer them to the new grading schema and you point out that the grade corresponds to the same letter grade, and is what they earned on the assignment. I think you're blowing this out of proportion (though again, I don't think changing grading policies mid-semester is ever wise).

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I'd take @fuzzylogician's advice. The statement allows students to be aware of the change in a way that should not cause issues for you. I would also discuss with the professor why they made the change. It's rarely on a whim. I get the need to vent, but, if I'm understanding your initial post correctly, you also made an assumption about grading without confirming with the professor. Even when you grade the exact same class for the professor over several semesters, things change. Vent the frustration now and take the lesson with you for future classes.

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Thanks for the advice. I was just irritated by the system being changed after the class ended. It's also been an unusually problematic class even without the grading system changing, so my patience was already wearing a little thin.

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On 1/17/2017 at 6:23 PM, angesradieux said:

Rawr. I'll start off by saying I know this guy pretty well at this point. This is the third time I've been his TA, and last time I was kind of there for multiple classes. As in, I only officially did the grading for one, but when he was going to be away for a week, he asked me to cover and give a presentation on properly formatting papers to another class, I accompanied his two classes that I wasn't officially TAing on a field trip, and I was heavily involved in keeping tabs on his research assistant. Generally, we've worked well together, with bouts of some irritating behavior. In all this time, his forum discussion assignments have been out of 10. And he's never said anything about skewing the grading system in any way. So for as long as I've worked with him, it's been 9-10=A, 8.5=B+, 8=B, and so on. Just as you would expect. Multiply the grade by 10 and you get the score out of 100%. Note that this particular class is a 5 week winter semester class, so grading has to be done quickly.

With this in mind, I've already graded the first forum discussion for this class with this system in mind. I gave 10's to students whose work was truly exceptional. 9-9.5 to students whose work was very good, but not quite on par with the best. 8.5 to students on the high end of B work, 8 to those on the low end, and so on. I entered those grades days ago. Students have seen them.

Well, today, I get an e-mail. Even though the class is basically done and the first round of grades have already been posted for students to view, he's changed his grading scale. 9-10 is still an A. But now 8-8.5 is a B+. Still, fine. I'm not going to quibble over half a letter grade. But where it gets really frustrating is now 6-7.5 is a B. 5 is a C+, 4 is a C, 2-3 is a D, and 0-1 is an F. This is drastically different than what I'd had in mind while grading the first assignments. There was a student I have a 6 to, which is probably the lowest grade I've ever given to a complete assignment. Usually, if all parts of the assignment have been submitted, I give at least a 7.5, or what in my mind has been a C. But this was truly one of the worst assignments I've ever seen, so I gave what I thought as a 60%, which would have been an F.

But now that's apparently a B.

But what frustrates me even more than the apparent adjustment of grades I already entered is now grades may be markedly lower than they were on the first assignment. Say for example the student who earned a 6 made significant improvements on the second forum discussion, but the work only merits a C. Am I supposed to give a lower grade even if the work is actually better, because the grading scale has changed somewhere in between the assignments being graded? What about the students I have 8's to because they were on the lower end of the B range? Do I give them a lower number grade even if they've maintained the same level of quality from one assignment to another? How do I justify that?

I'm just so frustrated. If I'd known that this time around he was going to change the grading scale, I would have graded the last assignments much differently. But not only did he wait until I'd finished grading, but he left it until after all the grades were posted to notify me. So now I can't change it, because if a student notices that what was an 8 has now dropped to a 6.5 or 7 or, worse, what was a 6 is now a 1 or 2, they'll be out for blood before I even have time to explain. I feel like no matter what I do, if I suddenly follow this scale I'll have a mutiny on my hands with my inbox exploding with angry emails. But, if I ignore it and follow the original scale out of a healthy sense of self-preservation, I'll get an e-mail from the professor wanting to know why I'm suddenly giving everyone what works out to be higher grades than I have in the past.

I planned to get a good chunk of grading done today, but now I'm frustrated and confused and, frankly, feeling a little stuck.

Has anyone else here experienced a professor drastically changing the grade scale after the class was underway and assignments had already been graded?

I am about to finish my PhD, and I have been a TA for almost 7 years. (2masters+5PhD). I have worked with too lenient professors, too strict professors, and most troubling; I have worked with professors who would not eve bother to attend the lectures most of the time, canceling them with one reason or another and still being too strict on students because some of them have talked bad about them on social media or generally they want to prove that they are "hardcore" professors that needs to be feared and taken seriously. The only advise I can give you is; do not own the grading, do not own the class and do not own the course, do not own the students. They are not yours, but his. He can decide on whatever he wants as long as he is within his legal limits. Do it according to his wishes. In this changing of the grading scale situation, just inform him that this change might cause such problems with a level and nonemotional tone and let him decide.

You will feel much better if you do not personalize it.

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Posted (edited)

I went to an undergrad school where curving was very common. The profs would usually make the tests extremely hard, and then curve us to fit a specific bell-curve (or average they were told to meet by the department). In first and second year, the departments liked to keep the class averages in the high 60s. They cared less in the later years. For example, I had extraordinarily hard lab anatomy exams where the class averages were about 48%. We were bumped up 15%. One of my stats midterms had a class average of 40% and we were all bumped up 20%. Basically, your prof just bumped the grades up. Nothing to get angry over and is VERY common at some schools. Basically, some profs just bell-curve down by making the assignment/test hard and then bell-curve up after the fact. Or, if the class average for the course was lower than they would have liked, they may bump up.

Edited by pianoplaya94

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