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Beyond Grades: Making the Most of Faculty Feedback

Student talking with teacher

When you approach a new course or degree program, it’s important to try to get the most out of the experience. After all, your education offers not only personal enrichment, but career benefits too! Getting the most from your coursework can include learning to interact with your faculty, accepting and learning how to use constructive feedback, not worrying too much about perfect grades, and knowing what’s expected of you.

Using Feedback to Increase Your Skills

Every student receives feedback and a grade from their instructor on each assignment and course. While grades are relevant, feedback is especially important. Some students may find it difficult to accept feedback at first. However it’s important to step away from your investment in the assignment and come back when you’re ready to take faculty comments into consideration.

Remember, your faculty are objective content experts who want you to succeed! It may take a day or two to digest your instructor’s thoughts, but doing so can help you learn how to incorporate their feedback into your next assignment or course.

Your instructor’s feedback can help you improve everything from your writing and communication skills, to your ability to work as a team member, to your ability to solve problems and present clear arguments. Being able to evaluate the effectiveness of your work and make improvements is a valuable skill that will serve you well both in the classroom and in your career. Take advantage of this valuable opportunity to increase your skills while in school! Your career will thank you!

The Meaning of Grades

Many adult students are sensitive to grades and may find themselves investing in their grades on an emotional level, feeling that a grade represents who they are as a person. This is understandable as you put a lot of effort into your coursework while working and maintaining other commitments. Your desire to do well is commendable!

However, believing that each grade represents you as a person could not be further from the truth! Grades are a way for an instructor to let you know how you’re doing. They reflect an individual assignment and how well it met the assignment criteria, often called a rubric. Understanding that grades are not a value statement about you as a person is an important concept and may allow you to divest yourself of grades and instead focus on the learning process.

The best approach for students to take is to focus less on the grade they hope to receive and instead focus on understanding the material and requirements of the assignments. This approach helps student use each grade to learn and improve. At the end of the day, a B+ or an A are not all that different but what you take away from that assignment is vastly important.

Additionally, it’s critical to remember that, yes, your grades will help you earn your degree in good standing. However, after you’ve graduated, there is less of a chance or even a need to showcase individual assignment grades or course grades. So spending a lot of time worrying over individual grades isn’t necessary. Remember, it’s all about how you’re improving your skills through accepting and using constructive feedback!

Understanding Course and Assignment Requirements

Taking responsibility for your coursework and grades, will also mean understanding the requirements of both the course you’re taking and each assignment. To do so, review the syllabus and gradebook associated with your course so you can understand how each assignment is weighted related to the overall scheme of the course. This can help you focus your time and attention on assignments that are weighted most heavily!

You will also want to take the time to understand how each assignment will be graded by carefully reviewing assignment descriptions and any associated rubrics. If you find you’re confused about what’s expected, don’t be afraid to reach out. Your faculty member is there to help you learn, not just assign grades. They want you to do well and will offer any help necessary to clarify assignment criteria.

If for some reason you do need to approach your instructor to advocate for yourself regarding what you feel is an incorrect grade, don’t approach them in an emotional or combative manner. Take the time to think through why you feel your grade wasn’t deserved and create a logical argument that supports your point.

As for your approach, we all know that you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar! Approaching your faculty is no different. Be professional, state your case, and learn to be open to the feedback you receive. 

In the end, you may find that those challenging courses where you struggled or where a faculty member had particularly high expectations taught you the most. Your education is not just about earning a degree, it’s a learning experience where you'll build the various skills that can make you a successful employee!

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