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Strategies for Responding to Grade Change Requests

In general, most students do not ask for a grade change even though they might benefit from the process. The following suggestions are intended to both diffuse a student’s frustration or anger about a grade and make the situation a learning one:

  1. Consider adding a statement to your syllabus that addresses requests for grade changes and/or explain on the first day of class that you are happy to discuss their concerns about a grade privately. While it may be constructive to spend class time reviewing an exam, discussing a specific student’s grade is generally not productive and can result in other students "jumping on the bandwagon" (Nilson).
  2. In your policy, indicate that you will be happy to discuss their questions and concerns after 48 hours. This gives the student time to "cool off," and it gives the instructor time to consider the student’s viewpoint without becoming defensive.
  3. Require that students include in writing why their answer is correct and include any appropriate sources. During this process the student might realize the instructor is correct in his/her analysis. In addition, the instructor can adjust the grade accordingly if the student’s request is legitimate.

When discussing a grade with a student, consider the following:

  1. Listen carefully, and when possible, summarize what they are saying to ensure that they feel heard and that you understand what they are saying.
  2. Show empathy by using "I" versus "you" statements as much as possible and by acknowledging any frustration they have about getting a lower than expected grade.
  3. Provide guidance on how to better prepare for the next assignment or exam.
  4. Ask the student to "think out loud," as if they are taking the exam, to gain insight about their thinking process.
  5. Do acknowledge the value of discussing their grade concerns, even if you cannot justify giving them credit for their answer.


"How Do I Respond to Students Who Complain about Grades?" Center for Teaching and Learning. University of Minnesota, 2009. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

Nilson, Linda B. "Teaching At Its Best." San Francisco: Bass, 2010. Print.

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