Q&A: Making the grade: Understanding the marks you've been given
Question: What should I do if I don't understand why I've been given a grade or if I disagree with my assignment or participation grade?
Answer: As a student, you should be attentive to the grades you receive. Sometimes, understanding how your work has been graded can be confusing. The first thing you should do is look for comments from the instructor. Hopefully, your instructor will have included corrections and suggestions when grading papers. If so, even though you may not like the grade you've received, you should have a better understanding.
If the instructor hasn't included corrections or comments, contact him or her and ask respectfully. For example, "Hi Professor Smith. I see that I received an 85% for assignment #4. I really worked hard and I thought I followed the directions. Can you let me know why I didn't earn a higher grade?" If the instructor has included comments, you may ask for suggestions on what you can do differently or better, next time. It's also possible, the instructor may let you make corrections to raise your grade and it never hurts to ask.
Instructors want to know their students are paying attention and that their grades matter. Don't feel too shy to ask questions about your grade. You are showing commitment and responsibility for your education. Again, as long as it's done respectfully, you have every right to gain understanding of how to improve. Also, we are all human. Therefore, human error is inevitable. There have been times when a student has asked me to review their grade and the student was in fact, correct. I apologized, corrected the grade and acknowledged the student for being attentive. There have been other situations where I've stood by the grade earned, but took the time to explain how to make improvements.
Remember, it is the instructor's job to give you the resources, tools and instructions needed. It is the student's job to use them to learn.