Students’ Expectations Cause Grade Disputes in College

A recent article in The New York Times quoted a number of college professors who find that their students expect good grades if they attend lectures and do their out of class work. The associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “ The vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated, “I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences. They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

Read the story here.

3 thoughts on “Students’ Expectations Cause Grade Disputes in College

  1. Student recently wrote here that if there hadn’t been homework in elementary, she would have failed out of the wonderful college she now attends. In all fairness, student, you meant high school homework but posited that elementary homework prepares you for middle school and middle prepares you for high school and then high school prepares you for college.

    I have some professor friends. Based on their anecdotal evidence and from what I’ve read, professors have these concerns:

    1. Bemoaning that students coming out of K-12 are not avid readers. Not the passionate kind, the ones who want to get lost in books for hours on end.

    2. The K-12 test prep culture has robbed students of the ability to truly think for themselves.

    3. The current K-12 climate, as the above article connotes, has mass produced lean mean homework machines. Hardly the kind of student a college professor craves, the ones who are still curious and serious learners.

    I spoke to a woman recently who justified her daughter’s seven hours of Full IB diploma homework this way; she’s learned to crank out her papers because that’s what she must do in college.

    In today’s information age, there’s a lot of content out there, it’s everywhere, much of it mediocre. It’s great we’ve taught young people to crank out work, robo-style. But is that stuff written at 2am even worth reading?

    So as we see, not only does homework overload, in many cases starting in kindergarten, not properly prepare students for college, it thwarts it. Let’s not kill our children in order to save them.


  2. I’ve heard this complaint from a professor friend of mine before, and seen the behaviour myself when I taught some college courses a thousand years ago. I even remember in my university days (early 80’s) there were kids in the class who would listen to a prof for about 20 minutes, put their hand up and ask “Will we have to know this for the exam?” So even back then, there was this drive for “getting to the exam” rather than participating in a course. The courses that I recall though, the ones that stick with me to this day, are the ones where the teacher was unconventional, the class was small, and humour was a huge part the learning process.

    I did huge amounts of homework in highschool in the 70’s, but homework in elementary school was minimal (except maybe Grades 7 and 8). I’m not sure I learned to think very well though, critically that is,…there was never much time to think…production was more important.



  3. From the article: Professor Brower said professors at Wisconsin emphasized that students must “read for knowledge and write with the goal of exploring ideas.”

    This informal mission statement, along with special seminars for freshmen, is intended to help “re-teach students about what education is.”


    Ha! So much for our hyper-efficient K-12 homework machine culture preparing students for college. My daughter isn’t finished with a paper due tomorrow. It must be eight pages, she’s written three. No, no, she didn’t wait till the last minute, too much slog and grind to knock out first. She gets home from rehearsal at 9:45. She was up till one last night. She’s so exhausted she can’t see straight. I’d rather she just fell asleep and woke up early but her body can’t do that. So she’ll attempt to knock this out tonight. I’ll try staying up with her and I’m already dreading the long night.

    It wasn’t so long ago that she, “read for knowledge and wrote with the goal of exploring ideas.” Not so easy to do when all her life she’s heard, don’t be such a perfectionist, just get it done. Teachers keep hammering this quantity over quality zeitgeist.

    One friend told my child she gets through high school by just writing BS, in her words. Tell the teacher what you think she wants to hear. Doesn’t matter if it’s insincere, who’s gonna know? Denise Pope writes that extremely stressed out high schoolers no longer engage with the material and contemplate ideas, there’s no time for that. You gotta learn to crank ’em out.

    We’re told it’s to prepare our kids for college. Except now colleges say they have to reteach what education is all about! This article couldn’t have come at a better time. Evidence, ammunition!

    I’ve tried to make my case as eloquently as I could in the year and change since I first discovered this blog. I rest my case, your honor?


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