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What does it feel like to give a poor grade to a student who is clearly trying really hard in a college class?

Answer by Brandon Foltz:

It would depend somewhat on the curricular goals of the course, the type of discipline, and philosophical bent of the university.

In my courses at Indiana we discussed and wrote about large ideas in multicultural education; it was a large ongoing discussion at every level. So for me, class participation was required and graded; no wallflowers (it was a Teacher Education program after all, so speaking in a classroom was well…).

Before the first paper was assigned, I was sure to post all the writing resources available on campus for those students who were not confident in their writing or presenting. I also posted in our LMS examples of “high quality” papers and presentations from previous (anonymous) students. A crystal clear rubric was also provided.

The students in my classes who fit the description of this thread followed a pattern: papers and presentations with very good ideas that had problems expressing those ideas. Since my classes were about ideas in education and were not writing courses per se, I chose to give more weight to the ideas. I knew they were trying and had put a great deal of thought into what they were trying to write.

The only students who did very poorly in my classes earned that distinction by missing class, not participating in class, just throwing garbage on a piece of paper, or turning in assignments late (or not at all).

If it were a different type of class or subject area, my reactions would be different. In those cases on the first day of class I would discuss with my students the reality that for some students, it may take doing more practice problems or reading more on your own.

Another good practice is to have an assignment at the end of the semester that asks outgoing students to write a two paragraph “note” to incoming students about how to be successful in the class. Wisdom Letters.
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