Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
Alexandra Mosquera Netzkarsch/ Columnist
Grades are important. At least that is what we have been taught. Grades provide a standard to measure a student’s understanding, but have we gotten to a point where grading takes precedence over the educational experience? I think so.
I traveled half the world throughout my life because of my dad’s job working as a mechanical engineer. Every few years, my family and I would travel to a new country or continent, which meant I attended several schools.
Even though I couldn’t choose where I went to school or my teachers, I had a great overall experience. Most instructors made me and my classmates feel as though grades didn’t matter. Of course we all wanted to pass, but learning took priority over exam grades and extra credit assignments.
Since moving to the U.S. in 2010, I’ve attended three universities. I’ve taken math, sociology, art and journalism classes with professors from the West Coast to the East Coast, which gave me an opportunity to experience different teaching methods.
I also realized the luxury students have of choosing who teaches them. If they don’t like a professor, they could simply drop the course and take another.
Most importantly, I noticed some professors care less about a student’s learning experience and more about how well they perform in a course.
I had my first taste of college at De Anza College in California. I felt immense pressure to get good grades and prove myself, given that English was my third language. Thankfully, I had Julie Madigan as a professor.
Professor Madigan was an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor, who truly cared about her students. She made me feel comfortable and made me forget about being classified as an ‘A,’ ‘B’ or ‘C’ student. Her focus was on making sure students understood, learned and grew in her class, rather than ace an exam.
Being in her class made me forget about being graded and freed me of pressure, which showed in the good grade I got at the end of the term.
I wondered if it was just professor Madigan, or if other professors had the ability to create such a great learning environment. I found my answer during my sophomore year at De Anza in a sociology course. And again last year in a communications course at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. Even here at FIU, in an international relations course at the Biscayne Bay Campus this semester.
Since starting at FIU, I noticed professors encourage students to value both a great learning experience and earning good grades, rather than focusing on one or the other. This is particularly true for hands-on courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, many of which I have already taken. Friends of mine said the same for several of their hospitality courses.
I strongly believe taking pressure off a student’s shoulders to do well in a class is beneficial to their learning progress, especially in college. We chose to be here, therefore we shouldn’t need professores to force us to put more effort to get a better grade.
Getting an education is one of the most precious things a person can do in his or her life. Realizing this is enough for me to value moments of joy and insanity while studying in college.