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Bad Grades: The Fault of Students or Lecturers and Tutors?

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When I went into my second year at De Montfort University (DMU), I knew that the year ahead was going to be a lot more challenging than the first. During my first tutorial for the Marketing Communications module, the tutor was quick to tell the class that this particular module was incredibly difficult to do well in and that it had a low pass rate. Great, just what every student wants to hear. Not! However, by the end of the year, it was my favourite module and I went on to become its highest achieving student (in the year that I studied it). Result!

The reason why I think I did really well in the Marketing Communications module, aside from having a great lecturer and tutor, was because I have always been the type of person who takes things, like what my tutor said during that first tutorial, as a challenge rather than an obstacle. So, I just pushed my tutor's reservations to the back of my mind and I worked extremely hard to make sure that every single piece of work I produced was to the highest possible standard. Ultimately I didn't want to let myself or my lecturer and tutor, who had both put up with my million and one questions throughout the year, down.

Now, that brings me round nicely to the theme of my post today; if a student is awarded a bad grade for an assignment, whose fault is it? Does the blame lie with the student, the lecturer, the tutor, or is it a combination of all three? In order for us to answer the question, we need to first look at the different perspectives. So, let's do that first.

In my opinion, it's the responsibility of the student to attend lectures/tutorials, ensure that they've read the key chapters from any core textbook(s), printed out the lecture slides (which should be made available prior to the lecture) and to be ready to participate in any discussions during lectures/tutorials. However, I can count on my hand the number of students that I have actually seen doing all or some of these things. No, I'm not kidding!

In terms of the responsibilities of lecturers and tutors, I think they should make lecture slides available prior to the lectures, identify any core textbooks, attempt to engage students, encourage independent thinking and make themselves available to students as much as they can. Although, I am completely aware that there are other pressures on lecturers and their careers don't revolve around students.

In an ideal world, students and lecturers/tutors would do everything I have identified above and bad grades would be a rare occurrence. However, in the real world, this is rarely the case. There are pressures on students in terms of; peer pressure to prioritise going out and getting wasted, work pressure because students are notoriously skint and have a billion things to pay for, family pressure and a whole load of other pressures. In addition, there are also a whole host of pressures on academics, which I can't identify like I did with the student pressures because I don't know enough about the pressures that an academic would face.

During my time at university, I have seen students use their initiative less and take less responsibility for their work, instead expecting lecturers and tutors to spell out exactly what is required of them. In addition, and particularly during my final year, I have noticed that attendance is low in some lectures/tutorials and when students do turn up, they're either not prepared - which is frustrating for those students who have prepared, or their engagement is low - which is obviously frustrating for lecturers. So, in a sense, it's a two-way thing; students have their part to place, as do lecturers. As soon as everyone involved starts seeing the relationship between students, lecturers and tutors as collaborative, it will be much more productive and harmonious (does that sound airy-fairy? Oh well!).

In terms of the question posed, I don't think it's easy to identify where the blame lies. Although, I have always believed that you should take responsibility for yourself and, in my opinion, it includes the work students produce at university.

Feel free to share your comments below, or to correct me if I'm wrong!