Should teachers/professors have mercy?

Klaus
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July 12th, 2018, 10:11 am #1

One of my students failed an exam, and then failed again in the make-up exam. He failed in other courses, too. He has to pass my course to continue; otherwise he gets kicked out of the university after two years of study.

He failed very narrowly, however. Out of 70 points, he'd need 0.5 points more to pass.

I looked at his exam. The TAs who corrected it were already rather generous. There is no reason to give him more points in the exam.

He has sent endless emails and paid endless visits to secretaries, student bodies, other professors, and what not, to get that 0.5 points. But they all point to me. I have to make that decision.

Opinions?
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Klaus
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July 12th, 2018, 10:17 am #2

Actually, in the list of quotes Horace linked to in another thread there's a potentially applicable quote:
wrote:..mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent...

—Adam Smith
:lol2:
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Catseye3
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July 12th, 2018, 10:22 am #3

How conflicted are you? Are you presently inclined one way or the other? If not, it is probably better to err by giving him that one last chance rather than to withhold it. (Even if it means being unfair to the students who did the work and did well on the exam, which sucks.)

You might call him into your office, and explain that you're giving him the half point, but that you see a bad future for him if he doesn't stop evading his responsibilities. And, most importantly, you will not give him another such chance -- ever.

Depending on how forcefully you get your point across, you may be giving him a great gift by opening his eyes when he is still young enough to benefit. That would be worth more than any exam. Win-win, for him and for you.

If he's destined to be a worthless layabout no matter what you say, well, you did what you could. C'est la vie.
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Klaus
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July 12th, 2018, 10:27 am #4

The way I see it currently is this.

He knew how important that exam is for him. He knew in advance that the work of his last two years, and his career thereafter, is at stake. This means there are only two explanations:

1. He understood the significance of the exam. He worked his ass off but still failed.
2. He might have been able to pass the exam if he had learned properly, but he didn't give a damn.

In case 1, it's unlikely that he'll ever finish his studies simply because he lacks the intellectual capacity. In case 2, it's unlikely that he'll ever finish his studies because he acts like a child.

And now he's trying to make his problem, which only he caused, my problem.
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jon-nyc
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July 12th, 2018, 10:53 am #5

We had a slightly euphemistic phrase at my first job - ‘counseling someone out’. I’d say it’s time.
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brenda
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July 12th, 2018, 11:07 am #6

The student is essentially asking for free points, and I never did that for a student. I would offer to go over the exam again, sort of regrading it, with the understanding that the grade might go up or down. In this case, if the TAs were already very generous, the grade would likely go down, removing the argument that it's only 0.5 points below passing.

I had a student and his father take a grade dispute all the way to the college president. I did not change the grade, told the president why and shared all the grade info on the student, including allowing him to rewrite a paper. His rewrite was equally bad and made his failing grade stand.

I told the president he had the power to change the grade, but that out of fairness to all my other students, and to maintain my own integrity, I would not change the grade.

I had a fellow faculty member come as a witness to this discussion with the college president, just to make sure there was no later misunderstanding.
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jon-nyc
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July 12th, 2018, 11:10 am #7

I always knew you were a hard ass under that sweet exterior. :D
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brenda
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July 12th, 2018, 11:22 am #8

jon-nyc wrote:I always knew you were a hard ass under that sweet exterior. :D
The pressure to change it was from the student, his father, and his coach. It was a lot of pressure, and the college president wanted me to change the grade, too.

My faculty colleague who witnessed the meeting told me on the way back to the department, "Damn, Brenda, you were good at that!" She especially liked the part of telling the president he had the power to change it, and that I would not do it. I think the whole department loved that. LOL

I'm as nice as I can be, and as tough as I need to be. All my students knew that, even the one who asked for the grade change. He really knew he didn't deserve it, but his dad and coach were pushing him.

The coach called me later to complain and I gave him hell. I told him to never ask for that again, because I grade fairly, and all my students count on me to do that. I was truly pizzed, and he knew it. He and I never spoke again.

I am a hard ass when I need to be. So watch out when I say someone needs a spanking. ;)
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brenda
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July 12th, 2018, 11:25 am #9

Oh, and the college president made a generous contribution to my later political campaign. LOL
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Ballyhoo
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July 12th, 2018, 11:29 am #10

brenda wrote:She especially liked the part of telling the president he had the power to change it, and that I would not do it.
I especially liked that part too.
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Mikhailoh
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July 12th, 2018, 11:48 am #11

While your analysis is spot on, I don't think I would want to have that impact on a student's life over a half a point. Let nature take its course without putting this on your shoulders.
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George K
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July 12th, 2018, 12:00 pm #12




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brenda
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July 12th, 2018, 12:05 pm #13

Mikhailoh wrote:While your analysis is spot on, I don't think I would want to have that impact on a student's life over a half a point. Let nature take its course without putting this on your shoulders.
Ayup, it's hard. If the student can take the course again, then it's an easier decision. If the TAs created a false sense of being close to passing the course, that's put Klaus in a very tough spot. I can see why he's feeling ambivalent about it.
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Mikhailoh
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July 12th, 2018, 12:09 pm #14

Besides, sometimes they come back shooting. :hair:
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Jolly
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July 12th, 2018, 12:11 pm #15

I've done it. Once. I had a kid that worked his butt off and was about as short as your student. I passed him.

I've also gone the opposite way. I've had a couple of instances in my short adjunct career where I have purposely not rounded a score up. And both of those deserved it.

It's all individual.
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Copper
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July 12th, 2018, 1:56 pm #16

Das ist nicht mein Bier

But since you asked my first thought is - do the kid a favor, fail him and send him in a direction where he can expect better outcomes.

Isn't there some kind of standard approach for something like this? A make-up or a verbal interview or something that could work on correcting the deficit.

If you fail a few requirements during an FAA flight test that might have 50 requirements you usually only have to make up the requirements you fail, but that is up to the examiner.

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Aqua Letifer
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July 12th, 2018, 2:35 pm #17

I took a class three times in undergrad. Exact same course. (Oh and by the way, I'm in the brenda camp here; this is not a rebuttal.)

This was before RateMyProfessor or any equivalent. I worked my absolute ass off the first two times, and got Ds both times. After the second bout with the class, I really began to doubt myself and if I was really in the right major. That summer, I got a ride back to my home town with another professor who knew my mom and had recently moved into the county. He asked about how my grades turned out, and I mentioned my second D. He asked who I had for that course, and I told him.

"Oh really? What did you think of him?"

I told him he seemed okay, I guess, not really understanding the nature of the question. I didn't see what he was getting at.

He said, "well, I happen to be friends with him. And he's told me time and time again that he hates teaching. That his students are all lazy goodfornothings, he hates going to his classes to teach and if it were up to him he'd fail all of them."

I really didn't know what to say to that. But the next semester, I asked around to make sure I had a better professor. I took the class a third time, got an A. (And let me tell you, I was actually very pissed about that A. I worked about eight times as hard for my two Ds as I did the better grade, which made me stop believing in the merit of the grade system.) I changed majors eventually anyway, but still got a minor in my original field before I graduated.

Had to take three more courses after the one I took three times to get the minor. Got As every single time. Part of it was because I continued to study my ass off (mostly out of spite at that point), partly because I was a lot smarter about my professor picks.
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Jolly
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July 12th, 2018, 2:45 pm #18

Aqua Letifer wrote:I took a class three times in undergrad. Exact same course. (Oh and by the way, I'm in the brenda camp here; this is not a rebuttal.)

This was before RateMyProfessor or any equivalent. I worked my absolute ass off the first two times, and got Ds both times. After the second bout with the class, I really began to doubt myself and if I was really in the right major. That summer, I got a ride back to my home town with another professor who knew my mom and had recently moved into the county. He asked about how my grades turned out, and I mentioned my second D. He asked who I had for that course, and I told him.

"Oh really? What did you think of him?"

I told him he seemed okay, I guess, not really understanding the nature of the question. I didn't see what he was getting at.

He said, "well, I happen to be friends with him. And he's told me time and time again that he hates teaching. That his students are all lazy goodfornothings, he hates going to his classes to teach and if it were up to him he'd fail all of them."

I really didn't know what to say to that. But the next semester, I asked around to make sure I had a better professor. I took the class a third time, got an A. (And let me tell you, I was actually very pissed about that A. I worked about eight times as hard for my two Ds as I did the better grade, which made me stop believing in the merit of the grade system.) I changed majors eventually anyway, but still got a minor in my original field before I graduated.

Had to take three more courses after the one I took three times to get the minor. Got As every single time. Part of it was because I continued to study my ass off (mostly out of spite at that point), partly because I was a lot smarter about my professor picks.
Of course.

I had one math professor, one chemistry prof and one zoo proof that were absolutely outstanding. They were able to make hard things easier to learn.

When I eventually had a chance to do a little adjunct work, I patterned my teaching style (with the exception of my own personality) after my old zoo guy. Wasn't as good, but I tried...
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Tav D
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July 12th, 2018, 2:54 pm #19

Klaus, this is not a one-time event, failing just one exam. It's clear the student needs to be counseled "choose another profession - good luck!"
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jon-nyc
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July 12th, 2018, 3:08 pm #20

Tav D wrote:It's clear the student needs to be counseled "choose another profession - good luck!"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiRGRvE_Wqg
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