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.

Beverly Browning

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning has been consulting in the areas of grant writing, contract bid responses, and organizational development for nearly four decades. Her clients have included chambers of commerce, faith-based organizations, units of local and county municipal governments, state and federal government agencies, school districts and colleges, social and human service agencies, hospitals, fire departments, service associations, and Fortune 500 corporations. Dr. Browning has assisted clients and workshop participants throughout the United States in receiving awards of more than $250 million. Dr. Browning is the author of over 37 grants-related publications, including Grant Writing For Dummies", Grant Writing for Educators, How to Become a Grant Writing Consultant, Faith-Based Grants: Aligning Your Church to Receive Abundance, and Perfect Phrases for Writing Grant Proposals. She holds degrees in Organizational Development, Public Administration, and Business Administration. Dr. Browning is a grant writing course developer and online facilitator for Ed2Go.com; former faculty member at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management and a current member of the American Association of Grant Professionals. She is CEO of Bev Browning & Associates (BBA, Inc.); Founder and Director of the Grant Writing Training, and most recently, the new Vice President for Grants Professional Services at eCivis Inc. (www.ecivis.com)