Professor’s Pen Point

Fickle, High, or Strict: all three = rageI think I was in high school when I learned about the engineer’s/freelancer’s triangle. It’s the old joke about good, fast, and cheap–you can have two of the three but you give up control of the third. It has the distinction of being both funny and true. However, I think there’s an overlooked version of this for professors and their grading: to keep it thematic, I suppose you could call it the professor’s pen point.

You have three options: your grading can be strict, your grading scale can be high, or you can be capricious with what your questions mean. You can be two of the three, but if you pull all three your students will hate you. I know this because a professor who I normally love just managed to move from his typical pairing (strict decisions about what he’ll take and a high grading scale) into the dreaded all-three zone. In a class in which an A is a 94 or above, an A- is a 92-94, and a B+ is an 89-92, he just gave a test where the highest grade in the entire class was a 91. Literally no one got an A. No one got an A-. All of us are annoyed.

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