Case Studies:Responding to Student Complaints By Melanie Santarossa
Case #1You have recently returned the student essaysyou graded to the class. Later that afternoon astudent emails you to discuss his grade. Hetells you he does not understand how he couldhave received a B- given that he approachedyou for additional help after class. He adds, “Ithought you would have told me if I was onthe wrong track, the last time I came to speakwith you”. What would you do?
Answer to Case #1 Here are some ways you could approach Scenario #1:1. Politely email the student back and explain you are sorry to hear that he is upset with his grade.2. Remind him that he cannot simply rely on your comments when editing his work, that he must also consult the rubric/assignment sheet, and ﬁnish any last minute edits on his own or with the help of a peer.3. Let him know you are more than happy to speak with him if he has further questions he would like to speak with you about.4. If you have the time, you could also offer to sit with him and go through an overview of the essay in reference to the rubric.
Ways to Avoid Case #1✴ Give the students a 24hour rule after you distribute graded papers back to them. Inform them that they cannot approach you to speak about their grade until they have taken 24hours to read over the feedback and review the rubric/assignment sheet. Also, tell them that in order to speak with you about their grades, they need to make an appointment to speak with you in person, and provide you with a written statement as to how they believe they were graded unfairly. WHY DOES THIS WORK? The 24hour rule ensures the students have enough time to gain composure so that they can carefully read through all the feedback provided. It allows them to come to you with speciﬁc questions, rather than with angry comments.
Case #2A student comes to your ofﬁce in tears overthe amount of feedback she received on herlatest exam. She wants to speak with youabout the comments you’ve left on her exam,but she has no idea where to begin. She alsoexpresses concern because she is unsure if sheis to re-write her exam based on the feedbackyou have given her. What would you do?
Answer to Case #2 Here are some ways you could approach Scenario #2:1. Try not to react in a way that may make the student uncomfortable. Welcome her into the room, and if you have some, offer her tissues.2. Depending on how distraught the student is, you may need to help your student calm herself down, by advising her to take deep breaths or take a quick walk to compose herself.3. You need to reassure her that you are more than happy to speak with her regarding her concerns.4. Ask the student if she would like you to review her exam with her, and be sure to point out the reasoning behind your feedback. This would also be a good time to conﬁrm/deny if she is required to re-write the exam.
Ways to Avoid Case #2✴ Before the exam, you could take the time to explain the importance of feedback to student learning. You could also show your students what type of feedback they can expect, and how you may organize such comments.✴ Also, try to limit the feedback you give so that they are not overwhelmed by the amount of writing that may appear on their exam.✴ WHY DOES THIS WORK? Showing the students why feedback will be helpful to them, and how they can expect to receive it, will make them feel more comfortable with the process.
Case #3You created a rubric to accompany a researchproject. On the same day that you return theresearch project, a student confronts youclaiming that he does not agree with thecriteria you have included in the rubric, andfeels that because there is a discrepancy inthe rubric, he did not receive the grade hedeserved. What would you do?
Answer to Case #3 Here are some ways you could approach Scenario #3: If you have the 24hour rule in place, remind the student about the rule and ask him to return. If you do not have this rule, perhaps the following would be helpful...1. Tell the student that you are happy to speak with him regarding his concerns.2. Ask him to bring his research project and rubric with him when he meets with you.3. Read over the rubric and research project with the student so that he can see how his work ﬁts into the grade category he received.4. Next, show him what he needed to include in order to reach the grade he thinks he deserved.
Ways to Avoid Case #3✴ When you distribute the assignment sheet for the research project, include the rubric and review both with the class.✴ If you have taught the class before, and have asked a former student to use his/her work, use their work as a chance to show the students how a project would be graded using the rubric (this could be a class activity).✴ WHY DOES THIS WORK? Providing the students with the rubric when you give them the assignment sheet helps them to see the purpose of the assignment and how the assignment will be weighted toward their overall grade. Moreover, using an example to show the rubric’s effectiveness will ensure that students refer to the rubric as they work on their projects.
One last note... In all situations wherein you encounter a student with a grade complaint, remember the following:✴ Remain calm✴ Show the student respect✴ Do not be afraid to ask the student to return when s/he is more agreeable✴ Walk the student through your grading process✴ Refer to any information given previously in class that reinforces your position/how you grade/why you give feedback etc.