A hallmark of students’ learning experience is their ability to approach and engage their professor outside of the classroom to pick their brain in a less formal setting. Unfortunately, student-professor dialogue isn’t always that rosy.
A new report by Intelligent has discovered that over 80% of high school teachers and college professors have given in to students’ demands for a higher grade than they’ve earned, a phenomenon known as “grade grubbing.”
The top reasons educators obliged were that they believed the student deserved a second chance (73%) and that they “felt bad” for the student (33%). Another 19% feared retribution for not changing students’ grades, a rational concern considering a student at the University of Arizona killed his professor on campus last year. A graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is on trial against his late faculty adviser for the same offense.
One the most concerning consequences of students becoming so ardent about grade-grubbing—and their professors acquiescing—is that it can cause them to undermine the value of education, wrote David Labaree, professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, according to The Washington Post.
“Grades, credits, and degrees—these become the objects to be pursued. The end result is to reify the formal markers of education and displace the substantive content,” he wrote. “Students learn to do what it takes to acquire the necessary credentials, a process that may involve learning some of the subject matter (at least whatever is likely to be on the next test) but also may not …”
Professors may be more at risk of grade-grubbing than K12 teachers
While the survey extended to educators in both the K12 and higher education spaces, the latter may be more vulnerable to student demands, said Diane Gayeski, professor of Strategic Communication at Ithaca College.
“While K12 teachers must be certified and have taken courses in pedagogy and test construction, very few college professors have had any training in those areas,” she said. “Creating very specific grading rubrics so that students can understand how they earn points for various aspects of a paper or project can minimize these concerns.”
Last November, a study examining undergraduate science student behavior toward achieving good grades revealed that over a quarter of respondents admitted to engaging in “grade-focused interactions.” Of those who did, 71% negotiated successfully.
Is it a Gen Z problem?
Nearly half of educators (45%) believe that Gen Z students grade grub more than previous generations. Those who think it’s about the same fall 10% below those who see it becoming a more prominent Gen Z issue.
Of those who believe Gen Z students are more aggressive culprits, they overwhelmingly took antagonistic views toward them; 73% say it’s due to their sense of entitlement, and 65% implied they’re lazy.
However, Gayeski believes the issue is far more nuanced. Students are under immense pressure to uphold a B average to retain their scholarship in the U.S. or to keep their hopes for graduate school—or both. Just one poor grade can stain their transcript and turn their dreams to dust.