Dr. Jerry P. Galloway
There is a common problem as students have come to "expect" a particular
grade in a given course and grade inflation reinforces this expectation.
I do try to monitor and "warn" or "caution" students who are in trouble
or having serious problems in a class. I cannot and do not "warn" or
"caution" students whom I fully expect to pass the class with a respectable
grade (even if its not the grade they want). Getting a B- or even getting
a C certainly does not constitute being "in trouble" in the course.
Typically, warnings are unnecessary as students who are in danger of receiving
less than a C grade and are, in that sense, "in trouble," already tend be
very aware of that possibility.
It is a question of standards or levels. The standards or levels have been compromised by many courses and grading
practices in higher education and this is misleading. I have seen many examples of courses giving almost
all A's. I have worked with all sorts of students at all levels for 20 years
and I know that a given class will not likely have 100% of students who are
of the highest possible achievers consistently doing the highest possible work. This practice has served to undermine
and compromise proper grading standards.
However, I am not interested in making my students the martyrs for any kind
of campaign for improvement. I would not and do not do this. While
I believe I maintain a sense of reality in grading, this document is offered
specifically for the purpose of edification and to place both students and
instructor on the same standards with the same expectations.
In short, an A grade is for the absolute very best work in a course. I
consider a B- and up to be a respectable grade. I understand if your
ambitions lead you to desire higher. I consider a C+ and a C to be
acceptable but that most students are capable of higher. I consider
a C-, D+ and D to be indicative of some sort of failing.... probably not
consistent or complete failure in any sense, but certainly would indicate
some sorts of failings in the performance and accomplishments of a class.
I consider both a D- (even though technically passing) and an F to indicate
a consistent and complete failure to meet the course objectives.
Let me explain further what sorts of grading standards I follow and what letter grades mean to me...
an A grade --- is reserved
for only the highest quality work. That's what the grade of A means.
This work would be good enough to serve as the prime example for future students
to follow. It would illustrate that the student went not just beyond
the expectations but did so with a degree of independence with ingenuity,
creativity and professionalism. The work would perhaps not be free
of flaws but all flaws would be superficial and incidental. None would
be fundamental to the nature of the product. The product would likely
include elements beyond that assigned - improvements or enhancements not
called for in the minimal assignment description and maybe not even considered
by the instructor. In no case, can an A grade be given merely because
students did what was expected.
a B grade
--- is considered good. This is an important point for those who always
expect an A. The grade of B indicates good work. Obviously not
as good as the highest possible work above, but nevertheless something worthy
and respectable. There should be nothing embarrassing or disappointing
in this level of work as it has clearly gone above the average. This
grade would indicate not only that the student has met course expectations
but did it well. Too much trouble in completing the work or too many
difficulties in accomplishing things within the course might indicate limitations
for the student and could detract from this grade. But more routine
difficulties with challenges inherent in the work, met and overcome by the
student would not make this grade unwarranted. I would expect a mix
of problems that might remain in work when completed. Most would need
to be incidental while there might be few problems that would be fundamental.
However, there should be no serious or drastic flaws remaining in work.
The grade of B indicates that the course objectives were all met and that
they were met above a merely acceptable level - both technically and in spirit.
a C grade --- is considered
merely acceptable. It might even be said that this grade is minimally
acceptable - very close to the line. While most of the course objectives
would be met, some might not. However, the spirit of all course objectives
would be met and any failings in meeting course objectives should be insignificant
and merely technical. This grade of C might apply either to (a) a limited
number of things accomplished well with some below standard, or (b) most
everything accomplished at a minimally acceptable level - or a mix
of the two cases. In any event, work will likely include problems,
some of which might be serious. Work might have involved exceptional
or extreme difficulties caused more by the students' limitations than inherent
in the task. In any event, giving a student a grade of C would necessarily
mean that it is completely acceptable for them to move on beyond the course
to subsequent courses or even to other institutions carrying with them a
badge or ticket that they have completely passed this course - at least at
an average level.
a D grade --- is considered
both below average and generally unacceptable. It might be that some
objectives were met or partially met but mainly indicates that some were
not. It probably indicates that at least some serious or fundamental
failures remain. It seems too that the student can not move forward
claiming that they have accomplished and demonstrated what the course intended.
Their work might warrant a technical credit and a technical entitlement to
put it past them and move on. They may have learned from the experience
but the demonstration of that still retains fundamental problems. Sometimes
students can work hard and achieve this level for any number of reasons.
Sometimes students achieve this level merely because they have not put forth
sufficient effort or maintained sufficient standards for the quality of their
work. Sometimes students can achieve this grade while working hard
but perhaps find their abilities too limited by the time available and challenges
of the work as assigned.
an F grade --- is considered
a failing of both the technical elements of a course and the spirit of the
course. It seems unlikely that a student who works hard could completely
fail at this level. It is possible that their abilities, at least within
the time constraints, are simply not up to the task. It is also possible
that a student, while very capable, simply does not apply their abilities
sufficiently. In any event, this grade represents serious and fundamental
problems in the work. These problems in the work are considered inconsistent
with and contrary to how the work was to be accomplished. There is
a wide range of failing levels. It is not a discrete or unitary status.
Traditional grading would assign an F to both a 59% as well as a zero% illustrating
a range of failure. The student may have learned many things from the
experience and may have worked very hard in the process but one critical
fact remains: the demonstration of things achieved is still grossly
insufficient, critically flawed and precludes even a technical credit of
an I grade (incomplete) ---
technically suspends a summative grade for 1 year. If not changed within
that year it will automatically be changed to an F.
I use an incomplete only for specific kinds of circumstances. The following
are NOT reasons or issues for getting an incomplete:
The following ARE elements that would contribute to consideration of an incomplete:
- having difficulty with course work
- falling behind in work completion
- getting an undesirable grade
- routine obstacles and interferences of everyday life
- difficulties or challenges associated with parenthood
- difficulties or challenges associated with employment
- technical equipment problems or limitations
- inadequate or incompatible technology at home
- legal intanglements
Some elements which MUST be true for an incomplete to be possible.
- a new serious medical situation
- a death in the family near the end of the course
- pregnancy with medical complications
- unforeseen military obligations
- forced relocation out of the georgraphical area
Once an incomplete is registered, the responsibility for completing the course
is exclusively with the student. If technical knowledge or skills are
required in order to complete the course expectations, it also the student's
responsibility to learn what is necessary. It is also the student's
responsibility to know what is pending for course completion. The student
must simply turn in evidence of all missing requirements, any completed work,
etc., once finished. I will expect that all evidence and work be submitted
no later than 9 months following the end of the course. This will allow
the remaining 3 months for grading the materials and the removal of the incomplete.
- work completed must be a C or better.
- the record of class participation must be positive and productive
- all efforts to work around the problem must be tried
It is important to understand that all work will be graded critically based
on the standards and expectations of the course. It is conceivable
that the final grade could be very low if the work is deemed poor or insufficient
on its merit. The grade will be final and no further time or opportunity
will be provided.