As college students, we are used to getting our information as quickly as possible, which is why it can be frustrating to wait for professors to post our grades online.
Many professors try to make the waiting easier by simply displaying all of the students’ grades at one time or calling their grades out in front of the class. While the reduced wait time can be more convenient, the psychological effect it has on students isn’t worth it.
According to Leon Festinger’s book “Social Comparison Theory,” people naturally assess their own capabilities by comparing them to those of others with similar characteristics. In this case, displaying or discussing grades in class can lead students to compare their success in the classroom to their classmates rather than focus on their own individual progress.
When grades are publicly announced it can be very embarrassing to students in the class whose grades are lower due to circumstances outside of education. Though it isn’t ill intended, it can bring down a student’s confidence in their ability to succeed.
A student should have the choice to reveal his or her grade instead of seeing it displayed in front of their class. Imagine that your annual income was displayed in front of your entire class for everyone to see. Grades, like salaries, should be discussed in private unless the person volunteers to give away that information.
There are several ways that students can inform themselves of their grades and progress outside of a public setting like a classroom.
Office hours are created specifically for students to come talk to their professors about difficulties, ask questions and discuss their grades. During office hours, professors can be fully committed to the student they are working with and assess specific problems that the student is facing.
Even if a professor’s office hours conflict with a student’s schedule, many are more than willing to organize an appointment that works for both parties.
Canvas is also a great tool to track students’ progress in the class without their classmates having access to the information. Some professors are more tech-savvy than others, so this isn’t practical for all professors, but if students could access their grades online they probably would feel more at ease.
Students who have professors who do not like Canvas or don’t know how to properly use it can access their grades via email. Many professors have the information already, so all students need to do is ask for it.
An alternative, fun way to display grades in class without risking the embarrassment of the students is having each student pick out a code name at the beginning of the semester and displaying their grades under that code name. I have a friend whose professor did this in her zoology class at Santa Barbara City College, and it made students feel much more comfortable with seeing their grades in front of their classmates.
No matter which method a professor uses to inform students of their grades, they should first be concerned with the mental wellbeing of their students and the negative effects that come from unintentional public humiliation.