A prof says: “You earn exam points … and, the burden of proof is on you”

Students often take issue with grades … sometimes understandably, sometimes not so much.

For perspective, here’s an interesting op-ed by an econ prof …


Excerpted from Forbes: Dear Student: I Don’t Lie Awake At Night Thinking of Ways to Ruin Your Life by Prof. Art Carden

One of the popular myths of higher education is that professors are sadists who live to inflict psychological trauma on students.

So, let me clarify a few things.

First, I do not “take off” points. You earn them.

The difference is not merely rhetorical, nor is it trivial. In other words, you start with zero points and earn your way to a grade. You earn a grade for demonstrating that you have gained a degree of competence  ranging from being able to articulate the basic principles (enough to earn a C) to mastery and the ability to apply these principles to day-to-day affairs (which will earn an A).

Second,  the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that you have mastered the material. It is not on me to demonstrate that you have not.

My assumption at the beginning of each class is that you know somewhere between nothing and very little about the subject. Otherwise, why are you here?

In this light, consider this: the fact that you “don’t understand” why you didn’t earn full points for a particular question might itself help explain why you didn’t earn full points.

If you understood the material – and do note that there is a large difference between really understanding the material and being able to reproduce a graph or definition you might remember from class – you would have answered the question flawlessly.

Finally, I’m here to be a mentor and instructor.

This means that our relationship differs from the relationships that you have with your friends and family. Please don’t infer from this that I don’t care about you, because I do.

You should never take grades personally. I don’t think you’re stupid because you tank an exam, an assignment, or even an entire course.

It probably doesn’t mean you’re dumb, it likely means you need to work smarter.

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