Grading Effort Versus Results
Over the years I've noticed more and more students want their grade to be based, at least in part, on the effort they put into a course. While this desire is understandable, it is impossible to fulfill. Why? Let's look at it.
The first problem with grading effort can be illustrated by asking: How can a person judge how much effort another person puts into any activity? Perhaps some observations could provide clues but much of what counts as effort is an internal activity and is inherently subjective. That leaves us with self-reporting as the only available option. Can we really rely on this as an objective basis for grading?
A second problem with grading based on effort arises when we ask the question: What about the student who does quality work with little effort? Do they deserve to have a lower grade simply because the course work was easy for them? This seems unfair. Indeed, this is just as unfair as grading a student well based on the massive effort they put into the course even when the results are poor. Ask yourself how many other areas of life you would be willing to reward people based solely on their effort: your grocer, your lawyer, your mechanic?
Imagine each of them saying, I tried really hard to address your problem so you should pay me accordingly even though I was not effective in helping you. Does that make sense?
Perhaps students want their grade to be based partially on the amount of effort they put into the course. But, how much of their grade should be effort based versus results based? Of course, answering this question still leaves unresolved the two problems stated above.
I suspect that when students say they should be graded on effort what they really mean is they ought to have the grade in the course they wish for regardless of their course work.
But, a college course is not simply an exercise in making students do work for the sake of earning a grade. It is good practice for the real world of work. In that world, effort may count for something but don't bet on it! What counts is results and the quality of your work. Think of most any profession you like and you will recognize that this is the case.
Some final questions to consider the next time you want someone to judge you based on how much effort you put forward:
Would you continue eating at a restaurant where the chef put in a great deal of effort but cooked a meal you disliked?
Would you continue to go to a mechanic who put a great deal of effort into fixing your car but couldn't get it to run properly?
Would you continue shopping at a store which put forward a great deal of effort to keep the shelves stocked but still ran short of what you wanted to purchase?