Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mid-semester Grades

 Mid-Semester Grades:

Beginning this weekend, first year students will be able to see their mid-semester grades in the Academics section of the Student Center on MyMadison. These grades are entered by faculty, only for first year students, to give students a sense of they are doing in courses.

Some important caveats: not all faculty record mid-semester grades, and they do not all use the same method of determining these grades. Mid-semester grades are clearly preliminary in that most of the graded assignments for the semester are yet to happen, so grades can change in either direction going forward for the rest of term.

Your mid-semester grades ought to match your own sense of how you are doing in your courses.

What to do if all your mid-semester grades are C or higher: Pat yourself on the back. Brag to your parents. Treat yourself to an afternoon with a novel or a bike ride. Well done. Keep up the good work!

Do all this even if a C is a new experience for you. University grading, especially in math and science, is tighter than most high school grading. Grades of C or higher across the board mean you are off to a good start at JMU.

What to do if there is a D or F or unpleasant surprise in your mid-semester grades:
1. Go talk with the course instructor. The best way to do this is to follow that person's procedure on the syllabus for how to contact him or her. In general, this means turn up at the professor's posted office hours.
By the end of the conversation, you need to be sure that you understand why the grade is what it is,  what you can do to change it going forward, and what advice the professor has for how to succeed in the course.

2. Think about what you discovered in that meeting.  What else might you change that will help your studies? What does this situation tell you about your overall pattern of living in the university? What could improve that pattern? Then ask yourself the big question: Are you able and willing to do what it will take to turn the course around?

If so, make a concrete, specific plan for how to do it. For example, if your instructor says you should plan to double the amount of time you spend on a course, make an explicit time management schedule for yourself and block out an appropriate amount of time for your studies. See next week's blog on Student Support at JMU for resources outside yourself. I am also happy to consult during office hours about effective plans for turning around troubled courses.

If, after talking with your professor and reviewing your situation in a course that is going poorly, you do not feel that you will be able to conclude the course with a passing grade, you might want to consider withdrawing from the class.  The withdrawal deadline for Fall 2014 is Thursday, October 23.  On Withdrawing from Courses, also posted here, discusses the pros and cons of this plan.) Then come see me during office hours before Thursday, October 23.

 Summary:  Mid-semester grades give you a chance to see how you are doing in your courses while it is still early enough in the semester to affect the final grades, and while you still have time to withdraw if the course is  not redeemable.

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