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Six Tips for Handling Grade Complaints

by Peter Connor

It’s a given—students are going to complain about the grades they receive. Also given, is your responsibility to handle such complaints. Generally speaking, this will go far better if you pre-establish your classroom protocols, put them in writing and discuss them on the first day of class. Include a page in your syllabus providing a clear picture of your grading policy, the criteria by which grades will be earned, and any attendance and class participation requirements that play into the formula. In addition, spell out the circumstances by which a grade might be reviewed and changed. You’ve put a lot of effort into creating a level playing field, one on which each student has an equal opportunity to make their mark. Inform your students of this. Explain that any request to review an exam, paper, or project in order to have its grade changed puts you in a very difficult position. In fact, requesting extra consideration is requesting an unfair advantage over other students. Explain that tilting the playing field that way will require an extremely sound argument.

Here are some grading policy suggestions for your syllabus:

■ Establish a 24-hour buffer following all class sessions in

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